Luke 10:25-37 – And behold, a lawyer stood up to put him to the test, saying, “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?”  [26] He said to him, “What is written in the Law? How do you read it?”  [27] And he answered, “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.”  [28] And he said to him, “You have answered correctly; do this, and you will live.” [29] But he, desiring to justify himself, said to Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”  [30] Jesus replied, “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and he fell among robbers, who stripped him and beat him and departed, leaving him half dead.  [31] Now by chance a priest was going down that road, and when he saw him he passed by on the other side.  [32] So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side.  [33] But a Samaritan, as he journeyed, came to where he was, and when he saw him, he had compassion.  [34] He went to him and bound up his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he set him on his own animal and brought him to an inn and took care of him.  [35] And the next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper, saying, ‘Take care of him, and whatever more you spend, I will repay you when I come back.’  [36] Which of these three, do you think, proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell among the robbers?”  [37] He said, “The one who showed him mercy.” And Jesus said to him, “You go, and do likewise.”

Jesus tells a lawyer (scribe) the parable of the Good Samaritan  in answer to the insincere question “Who is my neighbour?” The man is looking for an out. If Jesus will give a definition of “neighbour” that is very narrow then who we are called to love will be very easy and we can all go home and just be as hateful as we please. There is a lot of this lawyer in us. We like to find the loopholes in the rules so that we can break them and still claim that technically we did not. “Technically it wasn’t pornography”. “It wasn’t really spousal abuse”. “It wasn’t really idolatry”. Jesus, of course, sees right through the man, and proceeds to answer his question with what has become one of the most famous parables ever uttered.

It is that question at the end that grabs my attention.

“Which of these three, do you think, proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell among the robbers?”

In the parable of the Good Samaritan, who is the neighbour? Normally we think of the person receiving the love as being the neighbour. The one being showed love in this parable is the man who was mugged. “Love your neighbour”. Well, there is a man lying wounded and dying on the road. I see that he is my neighbour and I help him. And that is how we normally interpret this parable. We should be like this Samaritan and help whoever is needy because they are our neighbours. But in this parable the neighbour is not the man who was beaten. The neighbour was the one who did the helping.

The man asks who his neighbour is and Jesus tells this parable to show that a man the lawyer hated was being a good neighbour. “Love your neighbour” Jesus says, and then shows that the neighbour is someone who the lawyer hates. While the lawyer is looking for a very narrow definition of lawyer, Jesus gives him one that could not be more disturbingly broad.

Then Jesus says “You go and do likewise.”

Remember who Jesus is setting up as an example. The point here is not just that the Samaritan is hated by the lawyer, and, according to John 4:9, by most Jews. A major part of the point here is that Jesus tells the lawyer to imitate someone who is theologically wrong in almost every point. Samaritans are wrong. They believed that only the first five Book s of the Old Testament were truly God’s Word. They refused to worship in Jerusalem  Their ideas of the Messiah were askew. They just do not get it.  And Jesus says “Go do what he does”.

“You go and do likewise”. Go do what this theologically wrong, unsaved man did. Now Jesus is obviously not telling us that we should live like the ungodly. But He is telling us that even the ungodly are created in the image of God and show us up sometimes. This Samaritan does not ask who his neighbour is. He does not get his rule book out and check to see if he HAS to help THIS person. The wise and understanding of Jesus’ day just might say “This is just a story. A Samaritan would never do that”. Just like we do sometimes about the unsaved.

Jesus’ command here is to do as the one the young lawyer wouldn’t even talk to. What Jesus seems to be saying is that sometimes the people all around us do a better job of being the kind of people God saved us to be than we do.We should never have to look to the world to see a biblical principle lived out. How many Christians are there who try to decide if “love your neighbour” means loving fellow believers or if it includes non-believers as well? That is the lawyer’s question. And it is not the question to ask. The question to ask is – “Who may I be neighbour to?”
And what Jesus is saying here, is that sometimes those who do not know Him and are wrong in their religious views about Him, and salvation, and the Bible can be examples to those of us who are right in these crucial matters. “Go be a neighbour like that Muslim is. Go be a neighbour like that that gay guy is. Go be a neighbour like that atheist is”.
It is difficult to write this. I keep looking at the text and saying, “Surely it cannot mean that”. But it is not more shocking to us than the shock value the lawyer received when Jesus told him to be like a Samaritan. The text does say that. We are not being told to believe like Samaritans. It does not say that everyone is OK in their beliefs as long as they be a good neighbour. It does say that even those who are wrong in their beliefs and who do not have their sins forgiven and are not indwelt by the Holy Spirit and do not have the Scriptures as their guide and the power of God as their source sometimes do a better job of being neighbour than we do. And that should never be.
Qualities such as kindness, genuine concern for others, helpfulness, sacrificing for the good of others, are not unique to believers in Jesus Christ. But they should certainly not be better demonstrated than those who do believe in Jesus. We who have the Scriptures, the indwelling Holy Spirit, the forgiveness of sins, the presence of Christ, a High Priest who lives to intercede for us … let us go and do like those who do not have those things and yet show themselves to be good neighbours.