The most tangible evidence of our love for God is a genuine concern for other people. The story we call “The Good Samaritan” is a parable Jesus tells in the middle of a real encounter Jesus had with a lawyer. This lawyer asks a key question, “Who is my neighbor?”
In Jewish culture, the Rabbis taught that the term “neighbor” only meant fellow Israelites. Some even tried to limit the term more by eliminating Samaritans and foreigners living in the land. Only 100 percent full-blooded Jews. Yet, Jesus answers the question, by expanding the concept of neighbor, not restricting it.
1. A true neighbor is anyone in need.
The lawyer asked Jesus to define the meaning of “neighbor.” And the answer is anyone who is in need is my neighbor. He may be a stranger, a religious opponent, a member of another church or race, but if he is in need, he is my neighbor.
The Samaritan could have ignored the man, especially since most Jews didn’t highly regard Samaritans. But the Samaritan didn’t allow legalism to limit his love. The Priest and Levite, like the lawyer, were using God’s law as an excuse not to do anything. We need to diligently guard against any type of man-made rules that inhibit our ministry to others. And we should never try to justify our indifference through God’s Word.
2. A true disciple is one who demonstrates compassion.
Jesus is more concerned with who acted like a neighbor than who was a neighbor. And who acted like a neighbor? The one who showed compassion.
The apostle John speaks to this in 1 John 4:7-8: “Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God; and every one who loves is born of God and knows God. The one who does not love does not know God, for God is love.”
By the way, the word translated “compassion” is used in other New Testament passages usually to refer to the Lord Jesus Christ. This was not just emotion, but emotion that translated in to practical help. When the Samaritan saw this man, something stirred within him that compelled him to help. The Samaritan did not allow inconvenience to limit his sacrifice. He was willing to interrupt his schedule, spend his own money, and even risk his life in order to help this person.
3. A true love meets the needs of others.
Authentic love is not some sentimental emotion but a sacrificial action. It is a willingness to expend financial resources, sacrifice your time, or risk your reputation or life to meet the genuine need of another person. It sees past what others see. The Samaritan did not allow race or religion differences to limit his concern. He met the need.
The church is not some sanctified social agency. Yes, we are called to help meet people’s physical needs. But there is a greater need we have been called to meet.
The church of Jesus Christ is the only organization charged with meeting people’s greatest need of all—their spiritual need. It’s a need voiced by the lawyer to Jesus that started this whole discussion: “What must I do to inherit eternal life?” The purpose of our church is to answer that question by pointing people to Jesus Christ.
Adapted from “A Stranger in Need Meets a Neighbor in Deed” by Dr. Robert Jeffress. Listen to the sermon HERE.