It was my fellow 31 Dayer, E Adams Wright’s post https://asonebeingtaught.wordpress.com/ on the Good Samaritan that prompted my thoughts today.
It’s such a familiar Bible story that it’s easy to take it for granted and assume we know exactly what it means. I’ve heard sermons and read theological explanations on it. I’ve known so many versions of it written to make it more up to date – the Good Punk Rocker, the Good Scout, the Good Arsenal Fan, to name a few.
But today I was struck by the question that sparks the whole story.
An expert, wanting to test Jesus, asks him how he can inherit eternal life. Jesus turns him back to what he knows so well, the Law, to answer his own question. The expert summarises the whole Torah into two commands – love God with every part of you and love your neighbour as yourself. The way to eternal life is love. The answer is all about love.
So what does this man get picky about with the answer that Jesus has got him give to his own question? Does he ask for a definition of love? Does he ask what the difference is between loving with your heart and loving with your soul? Does he ask how much can I love my neighbour if I don’t love myself very much?
No, he picks on: ‘Who is my neighbour?’
Love simply doesn’t come into it.
Maybe this expert understands the Shema (the first part of his answer, the basics of Jewish belief) so well he needs no further explanation. Or perhaps he’s trying to avoid the whole issue of what loving God and your neighbour means altogether. Interestingly, Jesus’ reply (in the form of the parable) not only answers the question ‘Who is my neighbour?’ but it also answers the question not asked: ‘How do I love God and my neighbour?’ The answer to ‘Who is my neighbour?’ is ‘Who acts like a neighbour?’
I know how easy it is to become focussed on insignificant details and lose sight of the big picture. I can go on holiday and afterwards only tell you about the fight delay, go to church and only comment on the moment the organist got their timing wrong, or read an important email and see only the apostrophe out of place.
So I know that I need reminding not to ask ‘Who should I love?’ but just get on with loving all those people God sends into my life.