Friends, Neighbors, and Love

by Hal Lindsey
The Koran verse 5:51 says, “O you who believe!  Do not take the Jews and the Christians for friends; they are friends of each other; and whoever amongst you takes them for a friend, then surely he is one of them.”
The message of Jesus is completely different.  He said, “Love your neighbor as yourself.”  (Matthew 22:39 NASB)  He didn’t say love those who think like you, believe like you, look like you, or do business with you.  He said, “Love your neighbor.”
That raises the question, “Who is my neighbor?”
In Luke 10, Jesus gave a remarkable answer.  “A certain lawyer stood up and put Him (Jesus) to the test, saying, ‘Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?’  And He (Jesus) said to him, ‘What is written in the Law?  How does it read to you?’” (Luke 10:25-26 NASB)
It’s interesting that Jesus turned the question around and asked the man.  He was a lawyer, after all, and he quickly showed that he already knew the answer.  He quoted the two scriptures that summarize the law and that Jesus Himself said elsewhere were “the greatest commandments.”
“‘You shall 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 your neighbor as yourself.’ And He (Jesus) said to him, ‘You have answered correctly; do this, and you will live.’” (Luke 10:27-28)
So, follow two simple verses and you can earn eternal life.  The problem is, except for Jesus, no one ever succeeded in following those two verses.  The lawyer was trapped by his own answer.  He knew he wasn’t good enough.  But he didn’t give up on somehow saving himself with his own good works.  He decided to look for a loophole.
The scripture is specific about the lawyer’s motivation in asking his next question — self justification.  Verse 29 says, “But wishing to justify himself, he said to Jesus, ‘And who is my neighbor?’”
So we’re back to that question.  To answer it, Jesus told the story of “The Good Samaritan.”  His parable contains great lessons when standing alone, but to really understand it, you have to see the context.  Jesus told the story to answer the question, “Who is my neighbor?”
In it, a man fell among thieves. They robbed and severely beat him.  Two religious figures came by, and each in turn crossed to the other side of the road to avoid the injured man.  Then a despised Samaritan found the man, bound up his wounds, took him to an inn, and cared for him until he had to leave.  The Samaritan left money for the man’s care until he would return, promising that if it cost more, he would pay it when he came back.
At the conclusion of the story, Jesus asked the lawyer, “Which of these three do you think proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell into the robbers’ hands?” (Luke 10:36)
In verse 37, the lawyer gave the only answer he could.  “The one who showed mercy toward him.”
At that moment the lawyer might have felt a bit of hope.  If your neighbor is the person who would care for you as the Samaritan did, maybe he didn’t have to love everyone in the way he loved himself.  Maybe he only had to love extremely noble, high-minded individuals such as the Samaritan —still probably impossible, but narrowed down significantly.
Then Jesus threw in a twist that must have left the lawyer’s mind reeling.  “Jesus said to him, ‘Go and do the same.’” (Luke 10:37)
Jesus had not limited the definition of a neighbor.  He had expanded it to everyone.  He told the lawyer to go and be a neighbor to all.  He said to love everyone as you love yourself, and He gave an amazing example of how that kind of love manifests itself.  
Being a neighbor isn’t about who you know, what they look like, or what group they belong to.  The Samaritan didn’t know the fallen man.  They weren’t of the same ethnic group.  Their religious beliefs were different.  They didn’t live on the same block, or the same community.  The Samaritan was a neighbor to the man because he chose to be.
We, too, can make that choice. In fact, the law demands it.  Yet, who ever succeeded in consistently living at such a high level of selflessness?  It’s a requirement of the law that humanity consistently fails to meet.
The lawyer had been trying to make the law something by which he could save himself.  But the role of the law is not as a means of salvation.  It teaches us that we are incapable of saving ourselves.  Galatians 3:24 says, “The Law has become our tutor to lead us to Christ, that we may be justified by faith.”
Like the lawyer, people today try to save themselves by being good enough.  When that proves impossible, they try to limit God’s requirements to something “doable.”  But the law tutors us that we are sinners and need a Savior.  That was the message of Jesus throughout the Gospels.  He taught the absolute need of Himself.
What about you?  Will you trust your salvation to Jesus or to your own ability to meet God’s standard?  His standard of righteousness is Himself.  Do you think you’re better able to live up to God’s standard than Jesus, God the Son?  Are you trying to make yourself your savior, or do you choose to trust Jesus?
If you haven’t made that choice, I urge you to make it right now.
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