By John Greco
“But we were such good friends,” my then-fiancée protested.
“That was a long time ago, and we only have room for a hundred people,” I reminded her as I crossed another name from our wedding invitation list. Maybe you’ve had this experience, whether it was planning a wedding or birthday party, or sending out Christmas cards. With lists like these, it can be difficult to pick who gets to stay and who has to go. We want to make room for everyone.
But with other lists, crossing off names can come a bit more easily. Such was the case for many of the religious leaders in Jesus’s day. They knew that God had given His people a commandment to love their neighbors (Deuteronomy 19:18), and they had discovered (as we all do) that loving people can be difficult. So, they focused on the word neighbor and sought to define the term as narrowly as possible.
When an expert in the law approached Jesus, this was precisely his angle. He wanted Jesus to define neighbor so he could walk away feeling justified (Luke 10:29). But Jesus knew following God’s Word was never supposed to be a matter of mere technical obedience. The laws in the Old Testament were meant to convict people of sin and show them a way to walk in holiness and love.
Telling the parable of the good Samaritan was Jesus’s way of loving this expert in the law standing there in front of Him. This member of the religious elite had been given much, but he had missed the heart of God in His Word. The loving solution to the man’s blindness was to force him to open his eyes.
A neighbor is not defined by geographic proximity, for the Samaritan and the Jewish man in Jesus’s story did not live near one another and met while both were traveling the road to Jericho. Nor can a neighbor be defined by race, for the Samaritans were a people of mixed ancestry and were despised by most Jewish people in the first century. And a neighbor cannot be defined by common beliefs, for Jews and Samaritans disagreed about fundamentals like the Scriptures and worship.
Jesus didn’t narrow the definition of neighbor, but expanded it to include everyone imaginable. Just as the Samaritan loved the man he found in a ditch on the side of the road simply because the man was in his path and had a need, we are called to love anyone and everyone on our path.
It sounds hard, I know. I find myself commiserating with the expert in the law. It can be overwhelming to think about all the people I am commanded to love. In those moments, I have to remember that in my lifetime I am likely to be the man in the ditch a time or two, beaten and bloodied by this world. I’ll want to be considered someone else’s neighbor when that happens. I also have to remember what is truly overwhelming: the love of Jesus, the Son of God, who willingly died for me and made me not merely His neighbor, but His family.
Written by John Greco
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10 thoughts on "Making Room for Your Neighbor"
Loving others is sometimes uncomfortable and risky, but worth it. I want to love my neighbor, anyone I come into contact with, like Jesus loves them. I want to be an advocate for my neighbors, even if it means being unpopular.
Jesus makes it so simple. Love God, love people. We like to muddy it up and put our own rules to these things. How can I love God and people? Something I want to ask myself day in and day out.
Growing up in the church, I have taken the “spiritual gifts” test multiple times and a common gift that popped up was the gift of hospitality.
Every time I would finish one of those tests and see my results, the description of hospitality almost always seemed to include something to the effect of, “Have someone over to your house, make a bunch of food and enjoy each other’s company”. And for the most part I was content with that very cliche explanation. That is, until now.
I never ever associated hospitality with just being there for my neighbors, a listening ear, a presence. Growing up, my family didn’t spend a lot of energy getting to know our neighbors and consequently I haven’t as an adult.
I think the article and the last verse summed up what we needed to hear. “Love” is the fulfilling of the law, and only when our hearts are broken by the disadvantage our neighbors have will we truly be able to love and help them.
I pray that we are all able to show love in everything we do. I want God to break me down and change my mindset on what it means to help others. We see it all the time, those who already have less seem way more willing to give. I pray God keeps me willing to give and help others no matter my current stage in life.
Today’s devotion hits home in so many ways. I find myself guilty of putting up walls to those around me. Living in a city like NYC where there are so many people, one kind of has to in a way just to get through the day. I live in a bldg with over 600 apts, with over 1200 neighbors. Or maybe that’s just an excuse I tell myself. I want to love God the way we are instructed to in the Bible, I strive for this. However I feel loving my neighbor in this way is an area I fail at, I’m selective towards certain neighbors who to love in this same capacity. It’s messages like this mornings that are great reminders to keep my heart open to those people God may bring into my day/week.
God loves me as he finds me. In my shortcomings and failures. In my selfishness. In my pain. In my fears and insecurities. He shows me ultimate hospitality. And models for me how to show hospitality to others. Who is in my path? How do I be a Good Samaritan today?
Day 2: I have found myself guilty of not being available. People wanting or needing a place to confine and I’m “too busy”. This isn’t how jesus acted or would want me to act.. I want to be able to love better by being more available to love.
This is one of the best analogies for JESUS I have seen. Minus WILSON does not come into the yard and embrace the problem, he makes an valid attempt to offer what he was blessed with, analysis and the ability to present a valid end to whatever predicament the TAYLOR household had. This is one of the best devotionals I’ve seen… and it’s right at my finger tips. Keep them coming.
What has recently taken me back is the understanding of the gravity of the Samaritan being the one who helps. They were so hated by the Jewish people of the day, that for Jesus to use this would have been so controversial. Jesus is so counter cultural, you have to wonder what the far left and right would think of him today, and how would they react.
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