“But he wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, ‘And who is my neighbor?’” Luke 10:29
In this familiar parable of the Good Samaritan, Jesus deliberately chose a desolate venue to represent a neighborhood. All four men in the parable are single travelers making their way to various destinations along the dangerous road from Jerusalem to Jericho. As isolated travelers, all four are likely targets of bandits frequenting that segment of the highway.
Here Jesus highlights the human tendency to retreat into “safe” mode when presented with a fellow, unidentified traveller who has been stripped, beaten and is close to death. This stranger needs more than a plate of fresh baked cookies and a friendly smile. He needs mercy in action.
The lawyer asked the question above hoping Jesus would endorse his generosity toward the Jewish community he viewed as his neighborhood. Instead he found himself challenged to move toward Jesus’ definition of neighborhood. The lawyer’s original question was “what must I do to inherit eternal life?”. Jesus provided the connection the lawyer needed…this world is not our final destination. As we move through this life, God places people desperate for his mercy in our path. In Matthew 25 Jesus gets right to the point:
“Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’ Matthew 25:34-36
In the book of Hebrews we are further reminded that whatever geographical portion of the world people of faith consider home, we are not permanent residents.
As pilgrims in this world and citizens of the coming kingdom, Jesus has wired us to engage in merciful acts toward fellow travelers in need of redemption, wherever we encounter them.
Is this a good time to review how you’ve been evaluating your life? Have you become so invested in your worldly position that you find yourself resisting promptings of the Holy Spirit to protect your “safe space” or “comfort zone” from the needs of others? If so, Jesus is waiting to move you into a more receptive spirit toward those who need him.
By Kathleen Petersen