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.
coming to Jesus quibbled, "And who is my neighbor?"
was a story of a man who was beaten by robbers and left for dead
by the side of the road. A priest and a Levite each saw him and
passed by on the other side, but a Samaritan had compassion on
him and came to his aid.
of an answer is that? The man had asked whom he was obliged to
love. Jesus' story sidestepped his question. The victim in the
story, the man in need, is not identified: he is just a man. The
story focuses instead on two respected religious leaders who passed
by on the other side contrasted with a Samaritan who showed compassion.
By telling this story Jesus transformed the wrong question,
"who is my neighbor?" into the real question,
"who is willing to be a neighbor to a person in need?"
went a step further. By his choice of characters he points out
that love is more fundamental than religious beliefs. The Samaritans
were despised as a heretical religious sect. To his listeners,
Jesus was describing the actions of an unbeliever. Jesus was telling
his listeners that having the right religious beliefs, like the
priest or the Levite, is not what really matters in the eyes of
God. What matters, according to Jesus, are our actions. It is
through acting out of compassion that we most truly express love
- How do
we, like the questioner, seek to put limits on our compassion?
- Who do
we leave lying by the side of the road?
- Do we
allow religious differences to be a barrier between ourselves
and compassionate people who do not share our faith?