Showing mercy makes us neighbourly. Our challenge is to demonstrate the mercy of God in the world without determining whether the other person is worthy of our mercy. Newsflash: they are no more worthy than we are, yet God showed mercy to us all…
25 On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?”
26 “What is written in the Law?” he replied. “How do you read it?”
27 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.’”
28 “You have answered correctly,” Jesus replied. “Do this and you will live.”
29 But he wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”
30 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. 31 A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. 32 So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. 33 But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. 34 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. 35 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.’
36 “Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?”
37 The expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him.”
Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.”
The expert in law was not an expert in heart. We see that this fellow wanted to justify himself in his dialogue with Jesus. He was likely a good neighbour to the people who looked like him and came from the same place as him. He thought he was a fine example of God’s teaching to love God and others. Jesus was going to expand his thoughts on the matter.
The man asked Jesus, “Who is my neighbour?” Jesus asked the man, “Who was a neighbour?” “What does it mean to be a neighbour?” “Are you a neighbour?”
The easy path is to consider who our neighbours are, and then love them. This typically puts the definition of neighbour into our hands, which is where we want it. When we get to define who our neighbours are, then we get to determine whom we love. Then we can love the lovely and be shining examples of God’s commandments.
Jesus asks, “What does it mean for you to be a neighbour?”
This is a fundamentally different question with a different answer. The story teaches us that showing mercy makes us neighbourly. The neighbour teaching is to have mercy on other people. To whom shall I have mercy? To everyone. Who is my neighbour? Everyone.
The higher order principle is to demonstrate the mercy of God in the world without determining whether the other person is worthy of our mercy.
They are no more worthy than we are, yet God showed mercy to us all.
Go and do likewise.