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Faithlife

Who is my neighbour

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What is love?

“Love is not affectionate feeling, but a steady wish for the loved person’s ultimate good as far as it can be obtained.” ― C.S. Lewis
“Love, a term almost indefinable, is unconditional regard for a person that prompts and shapes behaviors in order to help that person to become what God desires.”
— Scot McKnight. Jesus Creed: Loving God, Loving Others (pp. 8-9). Paraclete Press. Kindle Edition.
Love is hard to define because it lies at the basis of things. God is love.
But love is more than sentiment. It leads to action.
Love is tied to the ultimate good for a person (not the ultimate want/what we want might not be good).
Therefore love is ultimately a moral because it is linked to good.

The power of love

Augustine of Hippo: Selected Writings Psalm 121: The Ecstasy of Love

Just as impure love inflames the soul and brings it to desire those earthly and perishable goods which make it also perish, plunging it into the abyss, so holy love raises us to heavenly things, inflames it with the desire of eternal good, urges it toward those goods which will neither pass away nor perish, and from the abyss of hell raises it to heaven. All love has its own power nor can love in the soul of the lover be idle; it necessarily urges on. Do you wish to know the quality of love? See where it leads

“The Christian does not think God will love us because we are good, but that God will make us good because He loves us.” ― C.S. Lewis
Love is a motive for change and growth for the person loved
Love is a motive for action for the lover

An expansive love

Johann Arndt: True Christianity Chapter 25: On the Love of Neighbor in Particular

Now we see how the love of God stretches itself over all men. This is testified to not only in his word, but also in the whole of nature. The heavens are given to all men. They cover all men; they are mine and my neighbors’. The sun is mine and my brother’s. The greatest as well as the lowest man lives under the same sun, in the same air, on the same earth and by the same water.

We are to treat our fellowman as God treats us. God himself gave nature as an example, that we are to be of the same mind to all men and not to love anyone more or less than another. As he is minded toward us, so we are to be minded toward our neighbors, and as we act toward our neighbors, he will act toward us. He testifies in our hearts to convince us how he is minded toward us. We are to be so minded toward our neighbor.

Love goes beyond like the love of God goes beyond

The challenge of love

Luke 6:32–33 The Message
If you only love the lovable, do you expect a pat on the back? Run-of-the-mill sinners do that. If you only help those who help you, do you expect a medal? Garden-variety sinners do that.
“To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact you must give it to no one, not even an animal.
Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements. Lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness.
But in that casket, safe, dark, motionless, airless, it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. To love is to be vulnerable.” ― C.S. Lewis
We love those who love us
We love those we find admirable
We love those who are like us
Love is dangerous because of the potential of hurt, but it is more dangerous not to love

The Good Samaritan

Luke 10:25–37 NLT
One day an expert in religious law stood up to test Jesus by asking him this question: “Teacher, what should I do to inherit eternal life?” Jesus replied, “What does the law of Moses say? How do you read it?” The man answered, “ ‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your strength, and all your mind.’ And, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ ” “Right!” Jesus told him. “Do this and you will live!” The man wanted to justify his actions, so he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” Jesus replied with a story: “A Jewish man was traveling from Jerusalem down to Jericho, and he was attacked by bandits. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him up, and left him half dead beside the road. “By chance a priest came along. But when he saw the man lying there, he crossed to the other side of the road and passed him by. A Temple assistant walked over and looked at him lying there, but he also passed by on the other side. “Then a despised Samaritan came along, and when he saw the man, he felt compassion for him. Going over to him, the Samaritan soothed his wounds with olive oil and wine and bandaged them. Then he put the man on his own donkey and took him to an inn, where he took care of him. The next day he handed the innkeeper two silver coins, telling him, ‘Take care of this man. If his bill runs higher than this, I’ll pay you the next time I’m here.’ “Now which of these three would you say was a neighbor to the man who was attacked by bandits?” Jesus asked. The man replied, “The one who showed him mercy.” Then Jesus said, “Yes, now go and do the same.”
What is a parable?
The parable shocks the audience because of the unexpected virtue of the Samaritan, but the moral does not lie in the unexpected person doing good. The subversion lies in the moral crisis that the parable offer.

The Shema

What is it that God really wants?
The parable as a moral crisis!
Luke 10:25–27 NLT
One day an expert in religious law stood up to test Jesus by asking him this question: “Teacher, what should I do to inherit eternal life?” Jesus replied, “What does the law of Moses say? How do you read it?” The man answered, “ ‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your strength, and all your mind.’ And, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ ”
Deuteronomy 6:4–5 ESV
“Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.

The declaration “Hear, O Israel, Yahweh our God is one Yahweh” (Dt 6:4). Shema comes from the first Hebrew word of the verse, sh’ma, “hear”. Verses 4–9 make up the whole of this foundational biblical truth. While several translations of verse 4 are grammatically correct, the Lord’s words in Mark 12:29 correspond most closely to the one given above. Religious Jews recite the Shema three times daily as part of their devotional life; no Sabbath worship is conducted in the synagogue without its proclamation.

Within the Shema is found both a fundamental doctrinal truth and a resultant obligation. There is an urgency connected to the teaching: the word sh’ma demands that the hearer respond with his total being to the fact and demands of this essential revelation.

The Lexham Bible Dictionary The New Testament

The Shema summarizes the heart of God’s covenant with His people. Yahweh alone is Lord, and covenantal faithfulness to Him involves every part of one’s being: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength” (Deut 6:5 NIV).

God wants us to love people as a reflection of how we love him.
This love is sacred because it is an all or nothing love.
What the scribe is really asking is not just “Who is my neighbor?” but “Who is pure and who is not?” He’s asking about a classification system. The “Who is pure?” question is also a “Who is to be loved?” question. Knowing that the question masks a larger concern, Jesus tells a story to catch this expert in the web of a moral dilemma so we can all learn.
— Scot McKnight. Jesus Creed: Loving God, Loving Others (p. 52). Paraclete Press. Kindle Edition.

Going beyond

Love as in-group dynamics. I should only love my neighbour.
Luke for Everyone The Parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25–37)

What lies at the heart of the confrontation with the lawyer, then, is a clash between two quite different visions of what it means to be Israel, God’s people. The lawyer’s question about the key requirements for entering the age to come was a standard rabbinic question, to which there were standard answers available. His own summary is exactly the same as that which Jesus himself gives in Mark 12:29–31 and Matthew 22:37–40. But what he had in mind was the way in which the law provided a definition of Israel.

The parable as a challenge of who is a true “Jew”? It is about being the right sort of neighbour.
There are 4 perspectives here
The audience
The priest and Levite
The victim
The Samaritan
These perspectives forces us to review our own definition of what God wants, and who should be included in that command.

The audience

Why is the use of the Samaritans so shocking?
Ideological contrasts. They each believed the other was false and wrong. I have the real thing.
Samaria as “keepers of the Law”
Each seeing the other as backslidden
Religious skirmishes, invasions and violence
Sanballat with return from exile
Invasion under Hasmoneans
Desecration of Temple in 5CE (see issue around corpses in the parable itself).
Attack of pilgrims
Socio-economic problems that the peasantry face. Their sympathy might very lie with the bandits...
Retribution as an obstacle to love, because it will always divide. Big issue in SA!!

A group of people who believed they were the true descendants of Israel and keepers of the Torah. During the time of the New Testament, their chief religious site was Mount Gerizim. The Samaritans believed that the Jerusalem temple and priesthood were illegitimate.

the Samaritans took their name from the phrase “keeper of the law” (שמרים, shmrym).

Baker Encyclopedia of the Bible Relations between the Samaritans and the Jews

Holding the Jerusalem temple to be a false cultic center and excluded from the inner courts by the Jerusalem authorities, a group of Samaritans desecrated the Jerusalem temple in approximately AD 6 by spreading human bones within the temple porches and sanctuary during Passover. Hostility toward Galilean Jews traveling through Samaria on the way to Jerusalem for various feasts was also not uncommon (Lk 9:51–53), with the massacre of a group of such Galilean pilgrims occurring in Samaria in approximately AD 52.

In the Torah “map” of people, priests and Levites head the purity list. Purity/Pollution. Samaritans are not even included. The priest and Levite would avoid contact with a naked and therefore presumably dead body. A priest could touch a corpse only to bury immediate family (cf. Ezek 44:25). The fact that the injured man had no clothes would make ascertaining his social status difficult.

A Samaritan traveling back and forth in Judean territory may have been a trader, a despised occupation. This is suggested by the fact that he possesses oil, wine, and considerable funds. Many traders were wealthy, having grown rich at the expense of others. They were therefore considered thieves. They frequented inns that were notoriously dirty and dangerous and run by persons whose public status was below even that of traders. Only people without family or social connections would ever risk staying at a public inn (see Oakman 1987). Inn.

Both the victim and the Samaritan were thus despised persons who would not have elicited initial sympathy from Jesus’ peasant hearers. That sympathy would have gone to the bandits. They were frequently peasants who had lost their land to the elite lenders whom all peasants feared. The surprising twist in the story is thus the compassionate action of one stereotyped as a scurrilous thief.

The priest and Levite

Purity as a boundary marker
The priest and Levite elevate the love of the Torah above the Torah of love.
There is not a Jew who hears Jesus’ parable who thinks the priest (or the Levite) is doing anything but what the Torah regulates. The irony of his little plot is that in “obeying” the Torah the priest and Levite are disobeying what is at the bottom of the Torah: loving others.
— Scot McKnight. Jesus Creed: Loving God, Loving Others (p. 53). Paraclete Press. Kindle Edition.
In other words we are not talking about hypocrisy here by the priest and the Levite (not scribe in proximity to the Levites). What we are talking about is a higher priority of purity.
The answer of the the priest and Levite is that purity is a higher priority
Is it the love of the Torah, or the Torah of Love?

The victim

Covenant as a boundary marker
The victim realises that the Samaritan is his neighbour.
When will we move beyond our fear and biases in SA?
Jesus and the Victory of God (v) The Great Commandment and the Good Samaritan

Then came the real question. If ‘loving my neighbour’ was part of one’s duty as a good Jew—i.e. part of the boundary-marker that meant one would inherit the age to come, the blessing in store for the covenant people when Israel’s god established the kingdom—then how was ‘neighbour’ to be delimited? If one started from the apparent purpose of Torah, to define the boundaries of Israel, then there would appear to be a natural, and quite limited, definition of ‘neighbour’.

The answer was obvious, though revolutionary: the Jew in the ditch discovered that the Samaritan was his neighbour. And, by implication, he also discovered that the two other travellers on the road were not his neighbours
perhaps precisely because they were anxious to keep themselves in a state of ceremonial purity, as part of the complex workings of the sacrificial cult.
— N. T. Wright, Jesus and the Victory of God, Christian Origins and the Question of God (London: Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge, 1996), 307.
Luke for Everyone The Parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25–37)

The lawyer’s question and Jesus’ answer don’t quite match up, and that’s part of the point. He wants to know who counts as ‘neighbour’. For him, God is the God of Israel, and neighbours are Jewish neighbours. For Jesus (and for Luke, who highlights this theme), Israel’s God is the God of grace for the whole world, and a neighbour is anybody in need. Jesus’ telling question at the end isn’t asking who the Samaritan regarded as his neighbour. He asked, instead, who turned out to be the neighbour of the half-dead Jew lying in the road.

The Samaritan

Mercy as the will of God
Luke 6:27–36 ESV
“But I say to you who hear, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. To one who strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also, and from one who takes away your cloak do not withhold your tunic either. Give to everyone who begs from you, and from one who takes away your goods do not demand them back. And as you wish that others would do to you, do so to them. “If you love those who love you, what benefit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who do good to you, what benefit is that to you? For even sinners do the same. And if you lend to those from whom you expect to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, to get back the same amount. But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return, and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, for he is kind to the ungrateful and the evil. Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful.
Loving those who even hates you is the highest expression of the New Testament ethics.

So who is my neighbour?

To love God means to show mercy to those in need. An authentic life is found in serving God and caring for others. This is a central tenet of discipleship.
Here human beings fulfill their created role—to love God and be a neighbor to others by meeting their needs. Neighbors are not determined by race, creed or gender; neighbors consist of anyone in need made in the image of God.
— Darrell L. Bock, Luke, The IVP New Testament Commentary Series (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1994), Lk 10:25.
What God desires is love.
The love of God goes beyond in-groups.
Loving your neighbour means being a neighbour.

Putting it in practice

Neighbourly love starts at home.
Neighbourly love is wherever and whenever love.
Neighbourly love is moral love.
— McKnight

A challenge to our neighbours

Christians are not called to tolerance; Christians are called to love. Toleration condescends; love honors. But for many, love-as-toleration implies not exercising moral judgment about another’s choices and actions.
We all hear about Christian love aplenty—and what we hear is that Jesus says, “Do not judge, or you too will be judged.” Thus, they infer, Jesus teaches love that means we are not to make moral judgments about others. Au contraire: Jesus’ love is always moral, because love is always sacred.
— Scott McKnight. Jesus Creed: Loving God, Loving Others (pp. 57-58). Paraclete Press. Kindle Edition.

A challenge to us

What is at stake, then and now, is the question of whether we will use the God-given revelation of love and grace as a way of boosting our own sense of isolated security and purity,
or whether we will see it as a call and challenge to extend that love and grace to the whole world. No church, no Christian, can remain content with easy definitions which allow us to watch most of the world lying half-dead in the road
— Tom Wright, Luke for Everyone (London: Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge, 2004), 129.
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