“But he wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” (Luke 10:29 NIV)
When we want to justify ourselves, we get put in our place. The gentleman speaking is a lawyer trying to justify himself. He’s using his legal expertise to interrogate Jesus. He wants to know who he has to love and who he doesn’t. He’s looking for a loophole in the greatest commandment:
“Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”
Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” (Matthew 22:36-40 NIV)
If we try to justify our actions, we get put in our place.
The lawyer doesn’t want to love everyone. He wants to love those he wants to love. He wants Jesus to define clearly who his neighbor is so he knows who he has to love and who he doesn’t. Jesus’ reply to him is the tale of the good Samaritan. Here’s a short video that is worth the 1:39 it takes to watch, a beautiful depiction of the story. The Samaritan, who is despised in this culture at this time, is the only one who helps an injured man along the road. Two other religious men had walked past and not offered to help. The Samaritan not only helped him on the road, but he took him to lodging and made sure he had everything needed. He paid his bill with his own money. Jesus used this story to define, not only for the lawyer, but us, who our neighbor is: everyone.
This lawyer was looking for a pass on having to love everyone, Jesus didn’t give it to him. He was trying to justify why he could treat some people differently than others, Jesus put him in his place. There is no loophole when it comes to loving people. The fact that the lawyer was looking for justification indicates he knew he was wrong. When we’re trying to justify our actions, it’s often an indication that we’re wrong.
Justification is trying to prove you’re right. But life isn’t about right or wrong, it’s about loving God and loving people. Jesus wants us to find a way to love everyone, no matter what the situation. Sometimes the best way to love people is from afar. Sometimes the best way to love them is tough love. Sometimes the best way to love people is by saying nothing at all. But without a doubt, no matter who they are, the best way we can love them is praying for them. We can pray they know Jesus.
Question of the Day:
Who can you pray for today that needs Jesus?