Christmas is about cheer and goodwill. This holiday season, I’m reminded of Jesus’ command to “love your neighbor.” With all the vitriol, violence, and hatred in the news recently, I can’t help but think it would all be cured if people just loved their neighbors as themselves. Granted, I know not every person in the entire world will do that. As long as humans are prone to sin, they will treat others poorly sometimes (or a lot of times). When I was thinking of something Christmas-themed to write, I wanted to write about something everyone around the world could relate with. Love your neighbor immediately came to my mind.
And behold, a lawyer stood up to put him to the test, saying, “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” He said to him, “What is written in the Law? How do you read it?” 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 he, desiring to justify himself, said to Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” Jesus replied, “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and he fell among robbers, who stripped him and beat him and departed, leaving him half dead. Now by chance a priest was going down that road, and when he saw him he passed by on the other side. So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan, as he journeyed, came to where he was, and when he saw him, he had compassion. He went to him and bound up his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he set him on his own animal and brought him to an inn and took care of him. And the next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper, saying, ‘Take care of him, and whatever more you spend, I will repay you when I come back.’ Which of these three, do you think, proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell among the robbers?” He said, “The one who showed him mercy.” And Jesus said to him, “You go, and do likewise.” Luke 10:25-37
Jesus came to earth for many reasons, not the least of which was to teach us how to love our neighbors as ourselves. In this teaching, Jesus makes it a point that the person who had compassion on the hurt man (who we can safely assume is a Jew) is a Samaritan. Jews around the time of Jesus viewed Samaritans with disgust—they viewed them as half-bred because Samaritans were the result of Jews having offspring with Gentiles. Thus, the illustration Jesus uses to describe loving your neighbor is one where the neighbor is more or less an ethnic enemy. It would be somewhat like an African-American slave during the 19th century saving the life of a white slave owner.
No matter who you see as your enemy—even if it’s because the way they treated you, not because the way you treated them—that’s your neighbor. Whatever racial/ethnic/religious/political group the media says is your enemy, that’s your neighbor. I think every Christian and everyone in general can—without defying his or her political convictions—love your neighbor as you love yourself. Without going too much into politics, I will simply say this: there’s a way to live out your political beliefs in a loving-your-neighbor fashion, and there’s a way not to.
God, help us to love our neighbors as we love ourselves. Show us what that looks like, especially when it’s hard. And thank you that you forgive us when we’ve failed to love our neighbors. Thank you that we don’t have to be perfect to reach heaven. Just by having faith in Jesus we obtain his perfect righteousness, have our sins forgiven, and know for certain we will spend eternity with God. Thank you, God, that our salvation is not dependent on how well we do on earth. This Christmas season, let’s believe that and love our neighbors.