Who Is Our Neighbour? (Luke 10:25-37)

By Not Known

Some people resort to violence as means to resolve social conflicts. Intergroup sentiments, prejudice and aggression arise when they see other groups as different from theirs, and thus, they opine that these other groups ought to be brutalized, hurt, treated with contempt or killed. However the Bible teaches us to see others as our neighbours.
That leads us to the question: Who is our neighbour? This same question was posed 2000 years ago by a lawyer to Jesus in relation to his question, “What must I do to inherit eternal life?” (v25 and v29). Jesus did not answer that question. Why? That was because the question itself was flawed in the first place. The lawyer’s question ‘who is my neighbour’ was really an attempt to limit who one’s neighbours might be. It was tantamount to asking ‘who is NOT my neighbour’. In ancient culture, as in today’s, such limits might have run along ethnic lines. There was a category of ‘non-neighbours’, and the lawyer was seeking Jesus’ endorsement of that. Therefore, in asking ‘who is my neighbour’ he hoped Jesus would say some people were not his neighbours.
Jesus aptly corrected the flaws in the lawyer’s question with a parable in which a man was subdued by a band of robbers and left on the road to die. As he lay there, a priest came by. The latter got as far away as he could from the former. Next, along came a Levite. As one who served in the temple, surely he would have compassion and stop to help the poor man? But no, he crossed to the other side of the road and went on his way. These two men with similar Jewish background as the injured man failed to help the latter, and as a result, failed to be a neighbour. Next, a Samaritan, ostracized by and an enemy of the Jews came along. Unlike the two Jews who had come along earlier, this Samaritan stopped by to help the wounded man. Jesus’ parable of the Good Samaritan had an unexpected twist to it. He told it in response to the lawyer’s question ‘who is my neighbour’ but Jesus concluded the parable by posing a question in return, “Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?” To which the lawyer replied, “The one who had mercy on him.” That was the correct reply, so Jesus simply said, “Go and do likewise.” For Jesus, speaking to the Jews shaped by the Law (Torah), this is what loving your neighbor looked like.  
Jesus’ point is; simply be a neighbour. Do not rule out certain people as neighbours. To love God means to show mercy to those in need. An authentic life is found in serving God and caring for others. It was a hated Samaritan who came to the rescue, who applied first aid, who took the victim to an inn, and who made provision for his care. If a Samaritan could prove himself a true neighbour to a Jew by showing mercy to him, then all men (and women) are neighbours.
This is Martin Luther King Jr’s comment on Jesus’ parable of the Good Samaritan – I imagine that the first question the priest and Levite asked was: ‘If I stop to help this man, what will happen to me?’ But by the very nature of his concern, the good Samaritan reversed the question: ‘If I do not stop to help this man, what will happen to him?’




Herna Kong