I recently talked about Why it’s Important to Know How to Love God and today, we are looking at the second greatest commandment, Love People! This is the second commandment that Jesus mentions but when He mentions it He says that it is like the first. So these two commandments are of equal importance. You cannot truly Love God and not Love People. We are going to talk about what it means to Love People and we will use the story of the Good Samaritan.
The Samaritans and The Jews
In the time of Jesus, the Jewish people were under a lot of social pressure to stay pure and only marry other Jewish people. The main reason for this is that if you marry someone that is not Jewish, then your belief system may get twisted to include the belief system of your spouse. This caused some false teachings and in general, was a bad idea. The Samaritans were a group of Jewish people who married across religious lines. This caused the Jewish people to develop prejudice and hatred for the Samaritans, as they had tainted the pure teachings of God. And this was not seen as a problem but instead, this hatred for the Samaritans would have been taught to children.
In this context, Jesus tells us a parable (a short story with a moral to be learned) about a Jewish man who was robbed and left for dead on the side of the road. Afterward, we see three men walk past this man. The first is a priest and the second is a Levite, a temple assistant. These two Jewish people saw this man and walked past him on the other side of the road. The third man to come by was a Samaritan. This Samaritan would have been hated and abused by the Jews his entire life. And this Samaritan stops, tends to the fallen man’s wounds, puts him on his donkey, and takes him to an inn at the next town. He even leaves extra money for the innkeeper to take care of him until he is well.
This is a well-known story in our world whether you are Christian or not. There are many organizations that take on this title of the Good Samaritan. But to these people, this would have been a very controversial story.
Love Your Neighbor
In Luke 10 before Jesus tells this parable, we see Jesus talking with a religious leader. This leader asks God what is the greatest commandment. Jesus basically says to Love God and to love your neighbor as yourself. The religious leader asks Jesus, “But who is my neighbor?” This parable that we just looked at was how Jesus responded to this question.
So I pose that same question to you that Jesus posed to this leader after telling the parable… who in this story was the neighbor? The answer is obviously the Samaritan. In the story though, we see the hatred that the Jews had for the Samaritans because the religious leader doesn’t even say the Samaritan but instead says the one who showed mercy.
So for us today, who is our neighbor? Is the person who lives next door to us? Is it the people who go to our church? Is it all Christians? What about those who disagree with us? What about those who hate us? The answer is that they are all our neighbors.
“You have heard the law that says, ‘Love your neighbor’ and hate your enemy. But I say, love your enemies! Pray for those who persecute you! In that way, you will be acting as true children of your Father in heaven. For he gives his sunlight to both the evil and the good, and he sends rain on the just and the unjust alike. If you love only those who love you, what reward is there for that? Even corrupt tax collectors do that much. If you are kind only to your friends, how are you different from anyone else? Even pagans do that. But you are to be perfect, even as your Father in heaven is perfect. -Matthew 5: 43-48
Maybe the general idea of loving everyone is not a problem for you. Maybe you think that we need more of this in our world today. Especially in light of the recent protests over racism and the growing polarization and demonization that is happening in politics. But the idea becomes harder when we get personal. The general idea of loving everyone is great and I am happy to see our world heading in that direction.
Things are not so clear when we get closer. Things seen from a 30,000ft view have little detail and are very general. We are not talking in generalities anymore. Now we are talking about an individual. There was a man on the side of the road. This Jewish man who probably bullied, ridiculed, and abused Samaritans. He is laying on the side of the road and needs help. The Samaritan finds himself now with a choice.
Personally, I think he struggled with the idea of helping this man, but in the end, his humanity won. My prayer is that our common humanity will win more in our world. Let us all take a lesson from this Samaritan. Regardless of previous hurts or pains or prejudices, I hope we can learn to see everyone as God sees them, as a child and someone who has value.
What Does Love as Jesus Loves Mean?
In this story where cultural norms are thrown out the window, we see the Samaritan help someone who was an enemy. More than that, this Samaritan takes it a step further. He helped the Jewish man by tending his wounds and bringing him back into town. This is an interruption to this man’s day but in the end, probably did not cost the Samaritan much.
For many of us, we love the idea of helping others and serving others. The trouble is that we are just so busy and we have other things we are doing with our money. Some of us are like the Levite and the Priest who are too busy or too important to deal with the issues around us. For some of us, we would help him get back into town before we had to rush on to our normal lives. We think, I want to help but really I want to help in a way that costs me little time or money.
Here we see the Samaritan go to the next level. He brought him to an inn and got him a room. He tended after his wounds and made sure he had food. Then when he had to leave, he paid the innkeeper to continue to care for him. Even saying that he would pay more if it required it when he returned. He did not just do the bare minimum in caring for this man. Instead, he went above and beyond.
The Samaritan loved like Jesus loves us. The beauty of this ending is that we see just how Jesus loves us. Jesus came and lived a perfect life here on Earth. He took our sins on the cross and died to be the ultimate sacrifice. He paid the price. So now we do not have to make sacrifices to become pure. Now we can simply ask God for forgiveness and confess our sins in our heart and we are made clean. Jesus could have stopped there. We would still be talking about Him if that was all He did.
But Jesus loved us more than that. He wanted us to be able to not just survive in this world but to be able to thrive. He says in the second half of John 10:10, “ I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” You see Jesus died to give us life. But He rose again and sent us the Holy Spirit so that we can have a full life.
Now we do not have to go to the temple (church) to enter the presence of God. Instead, God is with us and lives inside of us when we accept Him as Lord and Saviour. He did not just die for us to make it to Heaven… He rose so that we can live life the full here on Earth! It is this Holy Spirit that gives us the strength we need to live for Jesus and to love everyone. Including those that we would consider enemies.
How to Love People like Jesus Loves Us
In John 13 Jesus says, “Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples.” It is this love for people that shows that we belong to Jesus. If you wonder what Jesus’ love for you feels like, take a moment to listen to the song Reckless Love.
Think about how you can show that love to those around you.
- How can you love people with the reckless love that God shows you?
- What would it look like for you to love the person that hurt you? How would they respond?
- How could our love for people who hate us, point them to Jesus?
- Who is it in your life that is on the side of the road and needs you to stop and help them like the Samaritan helped this Jewish man?
- How can you show the people around you the love of God this week?
You may feel like you can’t do it. But remember that if you are a Christ-follower, the Holy Spirit lives in you and you have the power to love those that hate you. You just have to make the choice.
If you are not a Christ-follower but want to know more about what that means, please let us know. You can contact us here. We would love to talk with you about Jesus!