Love Your Neighbor, 7 April 2019

Love Your Neighbor
Series—The Quest of the Good Shepherd
Luke 10:25-37

Series Big Idea:
Love is one of the most misunderstood words in our culture, yet it is at the heart of the two greatest biblical commandments: love God, love neighbor.

Big Idea:
We are to love everyone, which means…everyone…because we’ve been loved by God.

Today’s text is so clear, so famous, so obvious. If you’ve spent any amount of time around here, you’ve heard about the Great Commission—make disciples or students of Jesus—and the Great Commandment: love God and love your neighbor.

You heard about the Great Commission last week during our Global Missions Conference. We are to make disciples as we are going through life, and for many of us we are to go and make disciples, go and share the story of Jesus with people who have never even heard his name, go to Africa or Columbus or even next door. But we must always, always, always go…with love.

Last month we were in the Old Testament book of Ecclesiastes. This month we’re going to be in the book of Luke in a series we’re calling
The Quest of the Good Shepherd. Holy Week is right around the corner so it makes sense for us to focus on some of the key teachings and life events of Jesus. Dr. Luke is writing a biography of Jesus and in chapter ten he writes,

On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?” (Luke 10:25)

This is a test…from a very smart man, an expert in the law, a religious leader, a respected person in the community. Jesus does what he so often does, he answers a question with a question.

“What is written in the Law?” he replied. “How do you read it?” (Luke 10:26)

I think I might respond, “Jesus, I asked you first!” But…

He answered, “ ‘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, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’” (Luke 10:27)

God wants us to love our neighbors as ourselves.

Where did this scholar come up with this answer? He knew the known-Bible, what we call the Old Testament.

Love the LORD your God and keep his requirements, his decrees, his laws and his commands always. (Deuteronomy 11:1)

“ ‘Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against anyone among your people, but love your neighbor as yourself. I am the LORD. (Leviticus 19:18)

The scholar began with a question, Jesus replied with a question, the man answered Jesus’ question, and then Jesus speaks.

“You have answered correctly,” Jesus replied. “Do this and you will live.” (Luke 10:28)

There it is, the end of the story. Love God and love your neighbor as yourself. Simple. Clear. Any questions?

The scholar had one.

But he wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” (Luke 10:29)

What’s the first thing when you hear the word…neighbor?

Who is my neighbor? When I was a kid, I always thought of my next door neighbor. Andrew was my friend, and it seemed reasonable to love him, to respect him, to show kindness and exercise the Golden Rule with him.

We can certainly extend neighbor from our next door neighbor to the person sitting next to us right now. This year, the National Day of Prayer is on May 2 and the theme is “Love One Another.” Jesus said,

“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” (John 13:34-35)

We will gather with people from across our city at Cherry Street Mission’s Life Revitalization Center down the street at 7 PM on May 2 to pray together, worship together, and love one another.

Perhaps you’re thinking love one another is too basic, too simple. You want me to get deep, you want meat, come on preacher, give me something new! I’m sorry, but until we truly love God and love one another, we’re never going to be the mature followers of Jesus we claim to be. I’m not being critical, but simply saying loving one another is a lot more challenging than it sounds. Jesus said the hallmark of our devotion to Him is our love for one another, the people in our church family, our brothers and sisters in Christ in Toledo and beyond, yes, even those from a different congregation or denomination with a different worship style or with theological differences. There’s a time and a place for dialogue on our differences, but at the end of the day, we must love one another. Tragically, the world has seen division rather than unity, hate rather than love, and criticism rather than compassion from the Church of Jesus Christ. No wonder so many have given up on organized religion!

But it doesn’t have to be this way. We can love one another. We
must love one another if we have any hope of seeing spiritual awakening. This is not a commercial, but I want to challenge you to join in the National Day of Prayer gathering on Thursday, May 2. You’ll be hearing more about it and it’s already on the church calendar, but this could be a great stop toward loving your neighbor, your brothers and sisters in Christ. If we can’t love one another, how in the world will we love those outside the church?

Maybe we should back up and ask, “What is love?” 1 Corinthians 13 offers a good description. It’s not about marriage—though marriages should be filled with love. It describes true, unconditional, agape love.

Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance. (1 Corinthians 13:4-7,

Love requires action. It’s more than a mushy feeling. It’s a rugged commitment to another person demonstrated not only with words but deeds. We are to love one another. We are to love our neighbor. Now back to our text,…

But he wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” (Luke 10:29)

Another question from this man!

We are to love one another, but clearly it doesn’t stop when we exit the building.

In reply Jesus said: “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he was attacked by robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead. (Luke 10:30)

I’m guessing this isn’t the answer the expert in the law was looking for when he asked Jesus to define neighbor. Nevertheless, Jesus tells the story of this robbery victim. The road from Jerusalem to Jericho was known to be dangerous and difficult, even called the “Way of Blood” due to the violence that occurred there.

A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. (Luke 10:31)

This kind of hits close to home for me. My title is not priest, but it might as well be in this instance. Notice the priest saw them man and deliberately avoided him.

Maybe the man was thought to be dead, in which case contact would defile the priest and make him ritually unclean. However, there was an exception for neglected corpses. What we do know is the priest did not love this man.

So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. (Luke 10:32)

Levites were respected leaders in the day and this Levite did the exact same thing as the priest. Almsgiving to the poor was how the Pharisees—experts in the law—loved their neighbors as themselves.

But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. (Luke 10:33)

This surely offended the expert in the law asking Jesus the question. Jews hated Samaritans.

He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, brought him to an inn and took care of him. (Luke 10:34)

Is this love? Of course. Don’t miss the next verse. I love how the Samaritan delegated care to this man.

The next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper. ‘Look after him,’ he said, ‘and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.’ (Luke 10:35)

The Samaritan touched the man, bandaged him, poured oil and wine, transported him on his donkey, and took him to an inn where he cared for him. But he doesn’t stop there. He pays the innkeeper to care for him. Delegation is a powerful leadership tool. As I often tell our church staff, you don’t have to do everything…you just have to make sure everything is done. There may be times when you can’t provide the help someone needs, but you can help them get the help they need. There are six verbs here that describe the loving action this Samaritan took. He invested emotionally, physically, and financially in this stranger’s rescue.

The story concludes by Jesus asking the expert in the law,

“Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?”

The expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him.”

Jesus told him,
“Go and do likewise.” (Luke 10:36-37)

Notice the expert in the law wouldn’t even utter the word “Samaritan!” In the Greek, “do” is an imperative verb, a command. It’s not optional. Have mercy. Love others. Put your faith into action. We often love God by loving others.

We could analyze this story for hours—and many articles and books have been written about it—but don’t miss the central point:

Our neighbor is anyone we encounter.

They might be a friend or acquaintance. They might look and act like you. Then again…

Our neighbor may be a stranger.

It could be someone you encounter for the first time, as was the case in this story. It might be an Immigrant, a refugee, a prostitute, a panhandler, a lawyer, a drug dealer, a pastor, …

Here’s the really challenging reality:

Our neighbor may be an enemy.

That was clearly the case in Jesus’ story. We can’t begin to understand how much the Jews hated the Samaritans.

Who’s your enemy? I know,
you don’t have any enemies, right? But seriously, what about Democrats or Republicans, refugees or immigrants, your boss, the gangsters down the street? Perhaps members of the LGBTQ community disgust you. Maybe you have hatred toward or have received hatred from someone of a different race, nationality, or religion. On a more personal level, maybe your enemy is an abuser, a criminal, someone who has done you great harm. We are to love them, too (though “love” does not mean trust; we need healthy boundaries).

At this year’s MERGE Summit, Savannah Martin shared a powerful story about The Pregnancy Center’s opportunity to open a location next door to Toledo’s lone abortion clinic. Talk about loving your neighbor! She said God made it clear she was to not only love those seeking an abortion, but also those who worked inside. It was a startling realization, yet one which resulted in The Pregnancy Center providing Christmas gifts to the abortion workers! They realized these workers are not the enemy, but actually masterpieces created by God with dignity, value and worth. They may not value the life of an unborn child, but they are not the enemy. They need to experience God’s love, too…in word and deed.

The word “enemy” appears more than 300 times in the Bible! Paul told the Roman church:

…“If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.”
(Romans 12:20)

I have a confession: I’m not a loving person. I love myself pretty well! Most of the time I’m loving toward my wife and kids and grandbaby. I think I do a decent job of loving our staff and our congregation…I truly love you, church! But there are other people who are more difficult to love.

I really can’t love my neighbor…apart from the power of God. Only the Holy Spirit can give me the love I need to love my neighbor, my friend, my family, my enemy.

Here’s the real scandal:

We were all enemies of God, yet He loved us through both words and action.

This the perfect segue to communion, the LORD’s Supper, the Eucharist. In that letter to the Romans, Paul said,

For if, while we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life! (Romans 5:10)

We can only love others—and God—with the love we have received from God. This was Jesus’ point in Luke chapter 7 when he said that “whoever has been forgiven little loves little.” (Luke 7:47b)

But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (Romans 5:8)


Author and speaker Bob Goff has two books. The first is entitled, “Love Does.” His second book describes the scope of love: “Everybody always.” That includes our God, our neighbor, our friend, our church family, and our enemies.

Pastor Bryan Loritts said, “The gospel begins with a vertical relationship with God that propels us into horizontal relationships with our neighbors who don’t look like, think like, or vote like us.”

May the Holy Spirit fill you with love—the greatest of all gifts—that you may go and love your neighbor—even your enemy—as yourself.

You can listen to this message and others at the First Alliance Church podcast here.