Summary: Who do I not have to love? This seems to be the question behind "who is my neighbor?" Jesus demonstrates that inheriting eternal life and loving your neighbor go hand in hand.
Jesus defines a Neighbor. Luke 10:25-37
Kitty Genovese Story
At about 3:20 a.m. on March 13, 1964, Kitty Genovese, a 28-year-old manager of a bar in Queens, New York, drove home to her neighborhood, parked her car in a lot adjacent to her apartment building, and began to walk the 30 yards through the lot to her door. Noticing a man at the far end of the lot, she paused. When he started toward her, she turned the other way and tried to reach a police call box half a block away. The man caught her and stabbed her. She started screaming that she’d been stabbed, and crying for help. Lights went on in the apartment building across the street. Windows opened. One man called out, "Let that girl alone!"
The attacker heard it and walked away. Windows closed and lights went out. So he came back and attacked her again. This time she screamed "I’m dying! I’m dying." This time more windows opened and more lights went on. The attacker went to his car and drove off, leaving Ms. Genovese to crawl along the street to her apartment building. Somehow, she managed to drag herself inside.
But he came back a third time, found her on the floor at the foot of her stairs, and finally succeeded in killing her.
During those three separate attacks over the course of 35 minutes, not one of Kitty Genovese’s neighbors tried to help.
After the third attack someone called the police who arrived there in 2 minutes, but it was too late. Residents who were later interviewed were asked why they did nothing to help, and most simply said, “I didn’t want to get involved.”
Jesus’ parable of the “Good Samaritan” shows us that these neighbors were not neighbors at all. The command to love your neighbor as yourself means getting involved when you have the means to help.
Listen to the Old Testament. Exodus 23: 4 "If you come across your enemy’s ox or donkey wandering off, be sure to take it back to him. 5 If you see the donkey of someone who hates you fallen down under its load, do not leave it there; be sure you help him with it.
Levit. 19: 13 "’Do not defraud your neighbor or rob him. "’Do not hold back the wages of a hired man overnight.
14 "’Do not curse the deaf or put a stumbling block in front of the blind, but fear your God. I am the LORD.
15 "’Do not pervert justice; do not show partiality to the poor or favoritism to the great, but judge your neighbor fairly.
16 "’Do not go about spreading slander among your people. "’Do not do anything that endangers your neighbor’s life. I am the LORD.
17 "’Do not hate your brother in your heart. Rebuke your neighbor frankly so you will not share in his guilt.
18 "’Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against one of your people, but love your neighbor as yourself. I am the LORD.
The gospel of Luke 10:25-37 records one of the most famous of Jesus’ parables, including reason he told it as background.
A certain lawyer stood up (a sign of respect) and put Jesus to the test (a sign of disrespect)… Jesus’ teaching and ministry was upsetting to the Jewish leaders. They constantly tried to find flaws in him so that they could accuse him and justify themselves.
This lawyer asks a question that has great ramifications: “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?”
Think about it! Do you want to live forever? What does it take? What do you need to do to inherit eternal life?
Jesus answers his question with a question. 26 And He said to him, "What is written in the Law? How does it read to you?" In other words, what does the Bible say? What does it tell you? Jesus is saying, “You are the lawyer, what does the law say?”
Well, at this point the Lawyer is committed, so he answers with the safest texts in the whole Bible. He knows the answer! 27 And he answered and said, "YOU SHALL LOVE THE LORD YOUR GOD WITH ALL YOUR HEART, AND WITH ALL YOUR SOUL, AND WITH ALL YOUR STRENGTH, AND WITH ALL YOUR MIND; AND YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF."
Now listen to Jesus: 28 And He said to him, "You have answered correctly; DO THIS, AND YOU WILL LIVE."
That could have been the end of the conversation. It could have been, but it wasn’t. This lawyer has been in debate school far too long to drop it now. He needs to score a point here, and so he lays out a question that is designed to entangle Jesus into a centuries old debate about love and war.