Sunday

14 July 2013

“All the paths of the Lord are steadfast love and faithfulness, for those who keep his covenant and his decrees” (Psalm 25:10)


Background

In the wisdom tradition of the Bible, those who study the law (ie the Torah or first five books of the Bible) do so out of love. They delight in it. We should not think of the lawyer who approaches Jesus as seeking to trick Jesus (Luke 10:25), rather his question is deep within the tradition of Jewish debate. The law is discussed and explored because it is a delight. To study the law is to walk the path to God.

Within Christian readings, lawyers are sometimes portrayed as pedantic or predatory which does not reflect the Jewish tradition of Jesus, in which the law is wholly positive. Jesus makes this clear in his response to the question put to him. He asks the expert what is at the heart of the law; and the answer, they both agree, is love. The love that is to be offered to God is all consuming, all that can be given by a person. So too is the love that we are asked to show our neighbour. And the love we give our neighbours is what we must give ourselves. Sometimes it is easier to love one or the other, but the requirement is that we love both our neighbours and ourselves.

The expert in the law asks Jesus about the identity of his neighbour, but the answer that Jesus gives in the parable of the Good Samaritan is focused instead on who acts as a neighbour. It is a subtle shift. The question posed assumes that it is the expert who has something to offer. Yet the answer Jesus gives turns this assumption on its head. Jesus asks him to see what he can learn about love from someone unexpected. What would it feel like to receive kindness and care from someone who is looked down on, and whose religion and morals are questionable? Surely it is easier to give than receive. Surely it is more comfortable to be the good neighbour than the one in need.


To Ponder

  • Which character in the parable of the Good Samaritan do you most easily identify with and why?
  • Do you find it harder to love your neighbour or to love yourself? How might belief in God's love for all help you?


Bible notes author:  Rachel Starr

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