‘Love Your Neighbor’ a way of life

By Rev. Keith Thompson, Living Hope Church, Little Falls

This week, hundreds of teens and adults will canvas the area doing yard work in what is known as the “Day of Caring.” I am proud to live in an area that continues to look for and demonstrate love in tangible ways.

The religious leaders of Jesus’ day, called Pharisees, had asked him a great question. Regardless of their wrong motives for asking, it was a good question.

“Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” Matthew 22:36

Jesus replied: “ ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ [38] This is the first and greatest commandment. [39] And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ Matthew 22:37-39.

“Love your neighbor as yourself.” Do you love who you are?

There are people that take loving themselves way too far. A number of Hollywood celebrities may fall into this category.

The majority of people love themselves in a way that is healthy and that ensures their survival.

God is calling us to do the same for our neighbors.

You and I are called by God to be people of influence in this world. People that will impact our neighbors in a way that demonstrates the love of God to them.

Jesus was asked the question “who is my neighbor” in Luke 10:29.

He then begins to tell the parable of the Good Samaritan.

A man was headed from Jerusalem to Jericho. Robbers came and stripped him of his clothes, beat him and left him to die.

A priest and then a Levite walked by this dying man and responded by walking on the other side of the road.

A Samaritan later came across the nearly dead man.

There was deep hatred between Jews and Samaritans. The Jews saw themselves as pure descendants of Abraham, while the Samaritans were a mixed race produced when Jews from the northern kingdom intermarried with other people after Israel’s exile. To this law expert, the person least likely to act correctly would be the Samaritan.

The Samaritan bandaged the man’s wounds, put him on his donkey, took him to an inn and covered his expenses while he regained his health.

In verse 36, Jesus concludes his story by asking, “Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?

The expert in the law could not bear to say “Samaritan” in answer to Jesus’ question.

Like Fonzi in the Happy Days sitcom who could not say “sorry.”

This “expert’s” attitude betrayed his lack of the very thing that he had earlier said the law commanded — love.

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

Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.”

From the parable we learn three principles about loving our neighbor: (1) lack of love is often easy to justify, even though it is never right; (2) our neighbor is anyone of any race, creed, or social background who is in need; and (3) love means acting to meet the person’s need. Wherever you live, there are needy people close by.

One day Jesus had an unusual encounter with a woman at a well.  This woman had been married and divorced five times. She was now in a new relationship, somehow hoping that this one would turn out different. Jesus, a Jewish man, goes against the cultural standards and begins talking with her, a Samaritan woman, in a way that demonstrated genuine love.

He impacted her in a way that caused her to go back to her neighbors and spread his message of love.

I am thrilled to be among hundreds that will be loving our neighbors during the “Day of Caring.” I also want to encourage you to look for ways to care for your neighbor every day.