Though it’s an old story, there are three simple lessons on how to love your neighbor we can learn from the Samaritan.
Love your neighbor as yourself.
It’s the second greatest commandment, after “Love God.” One of the most quoted verses in the Bible. And something we all want to do.
(Well, most of the time.)
If you sponsor a child with us, you’re great at this. You spend so much of your heart and gifts to show love to a child in poverty. But what about when the neighbor you’re asked to love isn’t that cute, smiling kiddo on your fridge?
What if it’s someone different?
Someone you disagree with?
Someone you don’t like?
What Does It Really Mean to Love Your Neighbor?
Thousands of years ago, Jesus was asked that same question. So He told a story about a weary traveler who was robbed, beaten and left alone alongside of the road (Luke 10:25-37).
An ordinary man saw him and kept walking. (He was probably busy.)
A very religious person ignored him, too. (There was probably no one around to notice his good deeds or spirituality.)
But the person who actually stopped and did something was someone a bit unexpected.
That person was the Good Samaritan. We all know the story — a kind person stops to help another person. But it means a bit more. In the story, the traveler and the Samaritan could not be more different. They came from different cities. They had very different views.
Some might even say that these two people would have hated one another. Yet despite their differences, the Samaritan chose to love his neighbor. Even though the neighbor wasn’t really his neighbor at all.
Our neighbor isn’t just the person next door. Our neighbor is the person God has placed right in front us. And no matter how different, how inconvenient or how unexpected, we’re asked to love our neighbor well.
What Is This Thing Called Love?
I Corinthians tells us that if we have all the right things to say but don’t have love, we’re just making noise.
If we’re super smart, or perfectly religious but not loving, we’re not that great.
If we’re giving and sacrificial so we can post it with a killer photo out of self interest, we lose out.
Instead, love is patient.
Love is kind.
It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.
It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking,
it is not easily angered,
it keeps no record of wrongs.
Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.
It always protects,
Love is patient. Kind. Content. Humble. Selfless. Forgiving. Joyful. Protective. Trusting. Hopeful. Consistent. And it never fails.
It’s not something you think about. It’s not something you talk about. It’s something you do — with a heart that leads people to the greatest example of love this world has ever seen. Though it’s an old story, there are three simple lessons on how to love your neighbor we can learn from the Samaritan.
Whether they move in next door or cross your path for just a moment, stop and see the person in front of you. Look them in the eyes. Ask God to help you see them not for who they appear to be, but in Whose image they are created — no matter where they’re from, what they look like or what they believe.
When you see a need, don’t keep walking. Stop and do something, even a small act of kindness. The Samaritan put differences aside to care for the stranger and get him the help he needed. You might not have the money to pay for someone’s medical care, as the Samaritan did, but you do have unique gifts, skills and insights that no one else can bring. How can you use them to help the neighbor God placed in your path?
In the story, the Samaritan didn’t just drop the traveler off at an inn. He made sure that he was taken care of for the entire course of his healing. Loving our neighbor well isn’t a one-time act. It’s a lifestyle — one that proves compassion and points back to Jesus every single time.
Living a life of love isn’t always easy. Trying to embody all the traits of love listed in I Corinthians is a tall order. But it’s something we can all strive to do together because Jesus first loved us.
It simply starts with a choice. Choose to practice patience today. Throw away that list of grievances tomorrow. Show some kindness the next. Keep sending encouraging letters to the child you sponsor. And when you see a need? Remember the Samaritan.
Let’s choose to live our lives in such a way where our response to the second commandment becomes a first priority.
Compassion International is dedicated to loving our neighbors in 25 countries around the world. Releasing children from poverty in Jesus’ name through child sponsorship is just one of the ways you can love your neighbor.
Learn more about how the teachings of Jesus shape our work and what it means for us to serve children in poverty “in Jesus’ name”. This article was originally published February 14, 2017.