Luke 10:27 (Message)
He said, "That you love the Lord your God with all your passion and prayer and muscle and intelligence - and that you love your neighbor as well as you do yourself."
This verse leads into the common parable of the Good Samaritan. It's a story of a man who's traveling to Jerusalem. Along the way he's robbed and beaten up, left for death on the road. Two people from the church pass him on their way, but instead of helping, they cross to the other side of the road and pass this dying man by. Then a Samaritan comes along, someone who's people weren't very popular among the Jewish people of the time. You would think that he too would pass by this poor man and leave him for death, but instead he helps the man. He bandages him up, takes him to an inn, leaves money with the inn keeper and then says, "Hey, if he runs up a tab with you I'll pay you when I return."
This Samaritan not only helps a complete stranger who thinks of him as scum, but he then goes above and beyond in his care by ensuring the inn keeper continues to nurture him back to health.
The parable is then followed by this conversation:
"What do you think? Which of the three became a neighbor to the man attacked by robbers?"
"The one who treated him kindly," the religious scholar responded.
Jesus said, "Go and do the same."
(Luke 10:36-37 Message)
I find it interesting that in this particular translation it says "which of the three BECAME..."
We're commanded to love our neighbor as we do ourselves, and ultimately this passage would suggest that we make the choice to make people our neighbors. If I decide not to help someone in need I'm not a bad neighbor, I'm simply choosing not to allow that person to be my neighbor. It's when I make the choice to live outside myself that I begin to make neighbors, and those are the people I'm commanded to love.
I think there's a valuable lesson to learn from this Samaritan and it's this...it would be quite easy to choose neighbors we're comfortable with, people that we know, from cultures we understand. But when we make the choice to reach out a bit further, that's when we truly live in the fullness of this command.
If I'm really going to live this out I need to ALWAYS be making the choice to reach out and become a neighbor.