The good Samaritan (after Delacroix) - Vincent van Gogh
Luke 10:36-37 – Which now of these three, thinkest thou, was neighbour unto him that fell among the thieves? And he said, He that shewed mercy on him. Then said Jesus unto him, Go, and do thou likewise.
We all know the story. It was prompted by a question and occasioned by a teaching in response to a greater question. What we have here is the application: Go and do likewise. One question led to another, then to a story, and then to the lesson Jesus desired to imprint upon every heart: that everyone is our neighbor and that loving our neighbor is about making a practical and active decision to do so and following through regardless of our feelings.
A legal expert who sought to trap Jesus in His own words asked Him what was necessary to inherit eternal life. He turned the question back to him and to his knowledge and interpretation of the law.
“Love God and love your neighbor” was both the answer he gave and the one that Jesus Himself gave on another occasion when asked what the greatest commandment was. Jesus commended him and told him to go and do likewise.
That wasn’t enough for the lawyer. He needed an escape clause, something that limited his liability and reduced his responsibility.
“Define neighbor,” was his retort. So, Jesus told him the story of the Good Samaritan and put him in a real bind. He made the hero of the story an outcast from the social and religious life of the Jews. He told the story in such a way as to make the answer to the question obvious.
Who was the neighbor? Was he one of those who left the poor man stranded by the road or the Samaritan who gave of himself and his means to help him?
The lawyer answered generically, and Jesus responded specifically, “Go and do likewise.”
Go; live like an outcast among outcasts if you must, but practice love as you go. Love is not revealed in the words we speak or the sentiments we feel, but in the actions, we take in being neighbors to our neighbors.
Go forth and live it.