by Jacob Speer |
And a lawyer stood up and put Him to the test, saying, “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” And He said to him, “What is written in the Law? How does it read to you?” And he answered, “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 said to him, “You have answered correctly; DO THIS AND YOU WILL LIVE.” But wishing to justify himself, he said to Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” (Luke 10:25-29 NASB)
“Who is my neighbor?” the lawyer asks (v.29). My main focus of this post will be the verse 29, but in context we must see the text as a whole. This way we can better understand why and how it is important to love our neighbors in a more personal way.
One of the new, interesting, and significant realities of life in a digital world is that we are finding original ways of building community. There was a time when community was largely related to and dependent upon geography. Community was based on shared space, so our sense of belonging was tied to the people who were closest to us; our deepest commitments were to the local community.
The Internet has allowed us to expand our understanding of community so that we can have significant and ongoing interaction with people regardless of their location. Today my sense of belonging (my sense of identity) may be tied most closely to a community of people who share an interest but who relate only online. I may feel a closer affinity with these people than with anyone in my own zip code or my own local church. Many of us have custom-built a community for ourselves based around a common interest.
Recently, I have found myself thinking much on how we can focus on “Missions in a Changing World.” Wanting to focus on how we can be faithful missionaries in a world that has been transformed by our new technologies, I found myself in the parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10). There we see a lawyer who goes to Jesus to ask, “What is the most important commandment?” This man knows that he is meant to live a life that is different from the lives of people around him, but he is wondering how he is to do that.
Jesus gives him the opportunity to answer his own question. He correctly identifies that he is to love God first and, having done that, to love his neighbor as himself. But then he immediately looks for a loophole, asking Jesus, “But who is my neighbor.” He wants to know who he is primarily responsible to love.
One of the constant challenges for the Christian is to look to the Bible–to the unchanging Word of God–and to apply it to an always-changing world. Jesus knew the specific challenge of the people of that time and that place. This lawyer was willing to love the people right around him, the people who were just like him, so Jesus responded by drawing “neighbor” much wider than this man could have imagined. The point is clear: My neighbor is not just the person next door, but he/she is anyone the Lord brings into my life, even if that person is my sworn enemy.
As I pondered Jesus’ answer in the Good Samaritan, and as I pondered missions in a changing world, I began to wonder what our specific challenge is in applying this text.
Who is my neighbor in a world where community now spans the globe?
Who is my neighbor when my deepest and most comfortable sense of belonging may be with a group that communes only online?
Who am I primarily responsible to love and to share the gospel with?
It seems to me that the temptation today is to err in exactly the opposite direction, to love the person far away before loving the person nearby. Today, the Samaritan may be the person next door, while the person I love with little effort is halfway across the world. As I’ve customized my own little community, I’ve learned to ignore the people closest to me.
Where will I have the best, most natural opportunities to love? Where will I have the best opportunities to share the gospel? Where are the people who can truly benefit the most from my love and service?
The best opportunities will inevitably come with relationships in the real world, where I can give all of myself to another person, not just the bits I choose to reveal through the Internet. I can be a far better neighbor to the person next door than I can to the person thousands of miles away.
If I am to obey the second great commandment, to love my neighbor as myself, I need to refocus my understanding of community and of neighbor to the people I can best love, best serve, and best share the gospel with. And those are the people right here, right now, right around me.
There is no better place to look at how I am called to love those around me than at the cross. Where Jesus fully paid for the sins of those who would believe on Him. He suffered in the place of sinners who would cry out in confession of sins and believe in His Lordship. If you have not laid down your life for Christ by faith, then I beg you, do so now. Believe on Him who is the only One who has the power to save you from the wrath to come.