Christ rarely answered a question simply. When he was asked he would answer with a question or a story. Often questions were asked to discover the minimum requirement or to look good in the eyes of those who heard. Jesus never let the asker slide. He’s answers pushed the boundaries, left hearers speechless, and infuriated leaders by putting the burden on them.
One day he was asked a simple question by a religious leader, “who is my neighbor.” A simple question, a simple response. Right?
Looking at Luke 10: 25, we see the question that preceded “who is my neighbor” was “Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” The answer to this was quoted from Deuteronomy 6: 5, “To love the Lord your God with your whole mind, your whole being, and all your strength,” and Leviticus 19: 18, “you must love your neighbor as yourself.”
The question was asked to seek the limit of responsibility through a definition of neighbor. If my neighbor is only the person to the left or right of me then I can simply be kind to two people and call it a day.
Christ did not answer the religious leader’s question by saying your neighbor is the man or woman beside you, or the one who lives righteously, or those with the same nationality/view points/ religious affiliation/ sexual preference. No. Instead he took the burden off of the one receiving help entirely and placed it solely on the one who witnessed the need.
In Luke 10: 30-37, the two religious leaders in the story, the two one would expect or at least hope would extend aid, for whatever reason went out of their way to avoid the injured man’s need. Instead a Samaritan (whom Jews thought very little of) extended unconditional help.
Many times we are rushing from one crazy responsibility to another with little time left for real ministry. Perhaps we are so quickly rushing to our next business meeting we haven’t taken a moment to learn the name of the man sitting at the stoplight every morning as we rush by, but he has been a fixture in our day for years. Perhaps a friend is hospitalized and we are so busy doing “ministry” she is home and well before we have time to even call or offer up a prayer.
I have been guilty of being the Levite who passed on the other side. I had it in my head that I was busy doing ministry and in the process failed to see the opportunity. Rushing to my position where I felt nothing would get done without me I neglected the need placed in my path to truly show God’s love. I continuously find myself here. And yet the burden is not on those around me. The burden is on me.
In John 4: 4-26, Christ showed us an example of this kind of love. He showed us how to love a neighbor when he spoke with the woman at the well. Had he held to the customs of the day he never would have entered the town, he would have walked around it. Instead he chose to enter, to sit at the well alone, and to wait for this Samaritan woman. When she offered him a drink he offered her eternal life. He offered her kindness when she had seen so little in her life. He spoke to a woman, a Samaritan as an equal. He asked her questions. He dove into her life and patiently brought her truths to light. The Savior of the universe stopped for a drink and heard a woman’s need.
It wasn’t the first time he heard a hurting woman at a well, said here I am and offered more. Genesis 16 tells us a woman named Hagar was forced from her home, wandering in the desert when God heard her cries. She named him the God who sees and he blessed her with life and a promise of a future. (Hagar: The Other Wife http://www.hopengriffin.com/wife/)
He offers the same to us. He sees us. He hears us. He loves us. He asks us to do the same for our neighbors.