Luke 10:25 “On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. ‘Teacher,’ he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?” Rather than answer, Jesus asked him what the law said. Being a good lawyer, he could quote the right answer. Luke 10:26 “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.”

He should have stopped while he was ahead. We don’t know the motivations of this one who asked the question. He is described as an “expert in the law” who wanted to “test” Jesus. Lawyers like arguing details and finding loopholes. Maybe he was truly looking for Jesus’ honest answer so that he could put boundaries on his obedience to the last 6 commandments. Maybe he just wanted to be admired for asking a profound question. Maybe he wanted his lawyer friends to be impressed that he had showed up this upstart rabbi. Maybe he was really worried about his eternal life. But rather than acknowledge that Jesus was committed to the law, he tried again. “Who is my neighbor?” (Luke 10:27)

The parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:30-35) didn’t endear Jesus to his listeners. We much prefer that God praise us and condemn those we don’t like. The antipathy the Jews felt for the Samaritans was hundreds of years old at that point and grounded in racial impurity, rejection of the writings of the Old Testament prophets, and the construction of a temple other than the one in Jerusalem.

The priest and the Levite had good reasons for ignoring the wounded man. The man might already be dead or die while they were trying to help him. If they touched a dead body, they would be unable to perform their jobs in the Temple, according the rules of their profession. It could also be a trap. This road to Jericho was notorious for criminals. They took the safe route and left the wounded man alone. In contrast, the Samaritan was moved by the man’s need, not his nationality or his own safety.

Jesus made the Samaritan the hero. How that must have rankled the lawyer. When Jesus asked him, “Which of these was a neighbor?”, the lawyer couldn’t even say “the Samaritan”; he answered “the one who had mercy on him”.

The problem with asking God a question is that once you do, you are accountable for how you respond to his answer. Jesus’ answer attacked this lawyer’s prejudice against Samaritans and his preference to follow the rules, rather than love the one God put in his path. We don’t get to pick and choose the pretty, friendly people to be our neighbors; God holds us accountable for how we treat the difficult ones we don’t like as well. How we treat them affects our relationship with God. Who will God put on your path today? Will you love that neighbor like you do yourself?

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