One of the greatest mistakes in the Good Samaritan story is to show how merciful the Samaritan is, and we also likewise show mercy to our neighbors and ignoring the important message. What does Jesus say who our neighbor is?
God instructs us to show mercy even to animals, but does Good Samaritan is all about only mercy?
If you see the donkey of one who hates you lying under its burden, and you would refrain from helping it, you shall surely help him with it.Exod 23:5
Let’s see what the Bible says in Luke 10:25-37. A certain lawyer stood up and tested Him:
Lawyer: Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?
Jesus: What is written in the law? What is your reading [of it?”]
Lawyer: You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind,’ and ‘your neighbor as yourself.’
Jesus: You have answered rightly; do this and you will live.
[Lawyer wants to justify himself]
Lawyer: And who is my neighbor?”
Jesus: A certain [man] went down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell among thieves, who stripped him of his clothing, wounded [him,] and departed, leaving [him] half dead. Now by chance a certain priest came down that road. And when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. Likewise a Levite, when he arrived at the place, came and looked, and passed by on the other side. But a certain Samaritan, as he journeyed, came where he was. And when he saw him, he had compassion. So he went to [him] and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine; and he set him on his own animal, brought him to an inn, and took care of him. On the next day, when he departed, he took out two denarii, gave [them] to the innkeeper, and said to him, ‘Take care of him; and whatever more you spend, when I come again, I will repay you.’ So which of these three do you think was neighbor to him who fell among the thieves?
Lawyer: He who showed mercy on him.
Jesus: Go and do likewise.
To understand this interaction, we need to know the background of what the law says about neighbor and why he asked Jesus about who his neighbor is. As we know the lawyer is justifying himself because the lawyer already knew neighbor refers to children of Israel.
You shall not take vengeance, nor bear any grudge against the children of your people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I [am] the LORD.Lev 19:18
However, the lawyer didn’t expect what Jesus told because, Jews have no dealings with Samaritans.
.. For Jews have no dealings with Samaritans.John 4:9
Jesus is showing the actual state of Israelites who don’t even show mercy what they are supposed to show to animals. However, I will focus on another truth that is often missed out regarding who is the neighbor.
If you look into the story carefully, Jesus asks the lawyer who is the neighbor to him who fell among the thieves. The lawyer answered, it was he who showed mercy on the man who fell among the thieves is the neighbor. The story does not say the other way round. Finally, Jesus said to the lawyer to go and do likewise.
So, what did Jesus told the lawyer to go and do? To show mercy to everyone like the Samaritan did? Even though it is true we are to show mercy like the Samaritan, the story doesn’t say that. Jesus said to go and love the person who showed mercy as himself.
So, who is a Samaritan anyway? Jesus Himself said he is a foreigner.
and fell down on [his] face at His feet, giving Him thanks. And he was a Samaritan. So Jesus answered and said, “Were there not ten cleansed? But where [are] the nine? Were there not any found who returned to give glory to God except this foreigner?”Luke 17:16-18
We are love one another (or fellow Christians) as one’s self, just as Christ loved us and commanded us.John 13:34
Any unbeliever who shows mercy to us is our neighbor, and we are to love them as one’s self. So, what about an unbeliever (or enemy who persecutes us) ? Still the same love as one’s self? No.
But I say to you who hear: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, … Therefore be merciful, just as your Father also is merciful.Luke 6:27,36
We are still required to love even in persecution, but this love is being merciful, not the same as loving as one’s self. As David said in 1 Sam 24:12 and Christ taught in Luke 18:7-8, the LORD will avenge but we must be merciful. Also refer this post for discerning affectionate and compassionate love.
And Jehu the son of Hanani the seer went out to meet him, and said to King Jehoshaphat, “Should you help the wicked and love those who hate the LORD? Therefore the wrath of the LORD [is] upon you.2 Chr 19:2
Our enemies may not be God’s enemies just like in the story of Jonah. But, we must never love those who hate our God. If we do, God’s wrath will be upon us. Hence, our neighbour is anyone who shows mercy towards us.