Luke 10:34 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.
Luke 10:35 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.’
Luke 10:36 Which of these three, do you think, proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell among the robbers?”
Luke 10:37 He said, “The one who showed him mercy.” And Jesus said to him, “You go, and do likewise.”
Remember, this was a parable a shady lawyer asked to justify himself. The question was “Who is my neighbor?”
He didn’t argue with Jesus that the greatest thing to do was to love God and to love his neighbor. That was easy. The hard part was loving scumbags and people that you didn’t like. If you can separate folks out and justify your hate by calling some people your neighbor and others not-my-neighbor, that love bit gets pretty easy.
In other words, if I control the definition of “neighbor” to suit my own desires, then I can ‘follow the greatest commandment’ by doing whatever I want.
Earning your own righteousness disintegrates fast, doesn’t it?
Or to put it in a way my mentor always used to say, “Legalism is always self-serving.”
Jesus punches the way we make neighbors in the face. Instead of making different people our neighbors as an act of self-justification, Jesus says we make neighbors with compassion. “The one who showed him mercy.” Is a self-indicting statement. The lawyer knows that “showing mercy” is what God does best. In some ways, every single thing that God does is a form of “showing mercy.”
So to love God and love your neighbor isn’t a complex act of defining God or defining your neighbor. If you are spending too much time on either of those, you might just be procrastinating and using confusion as an excuse.
This fits in a pattern with so many other discipleship things. Instead of waiting to feel like a person is our neighbor, we love them as we love ourselves and they become our ‘neighbor.’ Instead of waiting to see God move in our lives, we worship and serve Him, and as we do that we see God move in our lives. You don’t wait for your spouse to show you affection and then start being kind, you show mercy, you be kind, and maybe, just maybe your spouse will show you affection.
Finally, since Jesus used a Samaritan in His example, you don’t wait for your enemy to be kind and apologize before you reconcile to them. You show them mercy, like God showed you mercy, and love them. Then you make a clear path for them to be kind and apologize…maybe.