June 25 – Loving Our Neighbor – Rev. Dan Chadwick

Loving Our Neighbor – Rev. Dan Chadwick

25 On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?”

26 “What is written in the Law?” he replied. “How do you read it?”

27 He answered, “‘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, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’”

28 “You have answered correctly,” Jesus replied. “Do this and you will live.”

29 But he wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”

30 In reply Jesus said: “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he was attacked by robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead. 31 A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. 32 So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. 33 But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. 34 He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, brought him to an inn and took care of him. 35 The next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper. ‘Look after him,’ he said, ‘and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.’

36 “Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?”

37 The expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him.”

Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.”

Often times this passage is used as an example and motivator for being kind to people.  However, when we look at the question that precedes the story, we see that the answer also has to do with eternal life.

The expert in the Law asks a question, “What must I do to inherit eternal life?”  Jesus refers him to the Law and asks the expert how he understands it.  When the expert states correctly what he must do to have eternal life, Jesus says, “Yes.  Do that and you will live.”  The expert in the religious law then asks Jesus, “Who is my neighbor?”  And Jesus answers him by telling the story.

The passage of Scripture that the expert in the Law quotes, and that Jesus affirms as how to inherit eternal life, links together the action of loving God and loving one’s neighbor.  What seems to be two commandments are actually one and they cannot be separated.  That is, to love God is to love our neighbor.  And to love our neighbor is to love God.  Loving God and loving other people is the basic element of being a Christ follower.  Indeed, to consider ourselves followers of Jesus, we must love God and our neighbor.  Most of us seem to believe that we have the first part down pat.  We love God.  We worship God.  We seem to believe that we hold God as the most important part of our lives.  The other part, of what is known as the Great Commandment, might seem a bit more slippery.  That is what the expert in the law thought.  He asked, “Who is my neighbor?”

The question continues to be relevant and essential to living the Christian life today.  Who is my neighbor?  The recent riots and protests that have developed across our country have been unsettling to many Christian people.  These protests and riots are the result of unheard stories of systemic racism in our country.  There have been voices in the recent past, which have called out the unjust practices in our society.  Ever since the civil rights movement people have been making prophetic statements of the injustice in our society.  But many of us, as church leaders and members, have chosen to not engage in what was being said.  In so doing, we have done what the priest and Levite did.  We passed by the one who was injured.  We went about performing our Christian duties.  We did our religious thing.  And we left our neighbors, those who were injured, by the side of the road.

At this point, we have a choice.  We can continue to do our religious duties, and walk by our neighbor.  Or, we can stop to help.  We can listen to what our sisters and brothers have been telling us about the unjust practices of society.  If we choose to stop and help, we will join the prophetic call for justice in how people are treated.  If we choose to stop and help, we can develop relationships with churches of other races.  And maybe, just maybe, if we choose to stop and help, we can learn to love our neighbor.

Rev. Dan Chadwick

Region Minister