“For, brethren, ye have been called unto liberty; only use not liberty for an occasion to the flesh, but by love serve one another” (Galatians 5:13 KJV).
The natural tendency of anyone liberated from the necessity of keeping a list of rules to get to heaven is the extreme of “I have the right to do anything” without regard to anyone. When I was a much younger man registering to vote for the first time, I remember listening to a congressman’s campaign speech explaining the limitations of our rights as citizens. He said, “My right to swing my fist ends where your nose begins.” In other words, the militancy of demanding our rights — always a popular theme both from the pulpit and the public platform — must take into account something more than ourselves — namely, our neighbor. Jesus addressed this very concept with an expert in the OT Jewish Law, who asked, “What must I do to inherit eternal life?” (Luke 10:25 NIV). Jesus asked him to respond to his own question. The expert said, “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” (10:27 NIV). “You have answered correctly, Jesus replied. Do this and you will live” (10:28 NIV), in other words, you will “inherit eternal life” (10:25 NIV). But, as the all knowing Messiah, Jesus knew the OT mindset of His interrogator. He knew no one would actually keep the Law by force of will by their own choosing. And, this not even accounting for the need for forgiveness for our untold failures of not keeping that Law. Unsurprisingly, Jesus’ attacker “wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, And who is my neighbor?” (Luke 10:29 NIV). The Parable of the Good Samaritan was Jesus’ response. A traveler on his way to Jerusalem was attacked, stripped, beaten, and left “half dead” (10:30 NIV). A priest, and later, a Levite simply “passed by on the other side” of the road (10:31,32 NIV). But, a Samaritan, who was despised by the Jews, “took pity on him” (10:33 NIV) and “took care of him” (10:34 NIV). Remember, Samaritans traditionally returned that hatred to the Jews. Jesus asked, “Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?” (10:36 NIV). The expert correctly replied, “The one who had mercy on him” (10:37 NIV), to which Jesus responded, “Go and do likewise” (10:37 NIV). Jesus was saying, “You say you ‘love your neighbor as yourself’ (Leviticus 19:18 NIV), but you really only ‘love those who love you’ (Luke 6:32 NIV), and not this Samaritan. This expert in the OT Law was being reminded of our unending necessity to love our neighbor.Continue reading