Text: Mark 12:28-34, Luke 10:25-37, Romans 13:8-10, Galatians 6:2
I’m embarrassed to admit how often I don’t love my neighbor.
One of my neighbors is a man who regularly stands on a corner near my house. Pangs of guilt shoot through my heart every time I shift my eyes away from him as I pass by. I have a long list of excuses for my inaction, of course—mind tricks and rationalizations to push away the guilt. It might not be safe to interact… I might enable an addiction… I can’t make a difference anyway. But is ignoring his very existence the way of the gospel?
When asked point-blank to identify the most important commandment, Jesus responded:
“Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength. The second is: Love your neighbor as yourself. There is no other command greater than these.”
- Mark 12:30-31
Notice how Jesus snuck two commandments into His answer? With this twofold response, Jesus showed just how interrelated and inseparable these two commandments really are. To truly love God, we must also love people.
On our best days, we want to obey Jesus’ command. But if we’re honest, some people are easier to love than others. Maybe they require less sacrifice, they love us back, or they just caught us in a good mood. Whatever our reasons, Jesus challenged this preference and inconsistency: “For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same?” (Matthew 5:46). In other words, don’t expect a gold star for only loving when it’s easy.
When we feel guilty, we often want to justify our actions. When the Holy Spirit whispers to our conscience, we might argue away that sense of conviction by asking: who really is my neighbor?
In the book of Luke, we see a lawyer asking Jesus for clarification on the very same question (Luke 10:29). Jesus responded with the parable of the Good Samaritan—a story that still offends our sensibilities no matter how many times we hear it. Jesus told this parable to show His followers both who they should love and how they should love. The Good Samaritan and the man in the ditch had nothing in common, except for this one important detail: they were both journeying on the same road. For Jesus, that was enough of a reason to stop, to care, to be a neighbor.
Anyone in our path—or on our path—is our neighbor, and we are called to love them.
How can we possibly love every person we meet? The truth is, in our own strength, we can’t—not perfectly. But the command remains. Scripture tells us that those who are in Christ are able to love because He first loved us (1 John 4:19-20). The life we live—and the love we give—is by His power and for His glory (Galatians 2:19-20).
The Son of God is the ultimate embodiment of the Good Samaritan. Jesus left heaven to come to us in the form of a man (Philippians 2:6-8), to seek us out and meet us in our deepest need—when we were still lying dead in the ditch of our sin (Ephesians 2:1). He left His throne room to rescue us, even to the point of death on a cross. Let us love our neighbors with this same otherworldly love, the love of Christ.
Kaitie Stoddard is a professional counselor who recently relocated from Chicago to Colorado with her husband. She has her Master’s degree in Clinical Psychology and is passionate about helping couples and families find healing in their relationships. On any given weekend you’re likely to find Katie snowboarding in the Rocky Mountains, checking out new restaurants with friends, or catching up on her favorite Netflix and podcast series.