So I’m not sure what to say about this that I haven’t already said. Whatever lens through which you interpret what it means to follow Jesus there is one particular exchange that doesn’t leave a whole lot of room for disagreement. You can read about it in Matthew 22.
There’s a bottom line to following Jesus laid out Himself. When asked what the single, most critical of all of God’s commandments was, Jesus said that it was to love God with everything you are. He was quick to add that the second most important commandment was equally important (some translations have Jesus saying that the second is like the first): love your neighbor.
Jesus is pretty clear here. Loving God and loving your neighbor go together. They feed each other. Somehow loving the people around me is like loving God. Just who is our neighbor? When Jesus was asked that very question He replied with a story:
Jesus replied with a story:
“A Jewish man was traveling from Jerusalem down to Jericho, and he was attacked by bandits. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him up, and left him half dead beside the road.
“By chance a priest came along. But when he saw the man lying there, he crossed to the other side of the road and passed him by. A Temple assistant walked over and looked at him lying there, but he also passed by on the other side.
“Then a despised Samaritan came along, and when he saw the man, he felt compassion for him. Going over to him, the Samaritan soothed his wounds with olive oil and wine and bandaged them. Then he put the man on his own donkey and took him to an inn, where he took care of him. The next day he handed the innkeeper two silver coins, telling him, ‘Take care of this man. If his bill runs higher than this, I’ll pay you the next time I’m here.’
“Now which of these three would you say was a neighbor to the man who was attacked by bandits?” Jesus asked.
The man replied, “The one who showed him mercy.”
Then Jesus said, “Yes, now go and do the same.”
Think about what Jesus is saying. Answering the question, “Who is my neighbor?” Jesus is really saying two things.
First, a neighbor is someone who extends mercy to others. These are the people we are to love. Now before you start saying, “Oh! Well then whoever doesn’t give out mercy I don’t need to worry about.” Not so fast.
Jesus said, “Yep! That’s your neighbor. That’s the kind of person you should love. Now go and do the same.” If you see someone who isn’t holding up their end of the bargain in extending mercy that doesn’t give you a pass to not love them. You need to extend mercy…give grace…give love.
When you see someone extending mercy, celebrate it. Give that person a high five.
When you see someone who isn’t quite getting it right, love them through it.
The instructions are simple. The execution is hard.