After World War Two the Allies helped former enemies Germany and Japan rebuild. The hatred did not last forever. Thanks in large part to Allied aid, former enemies became close friends and two of the world’s strongest economies were given life.
Let’s look at how even enemies can become good neighbors?
Let’s examine the Parable of the Good Samaritan in Luke 10:25-37 and see how it applies to us.
Luke 10:25 One day an expert in religious law stood up to test Jesus by asking him this question: “Teacher, what should I do to inherit eternal life?” 26 Jesus replied, “What does the law of Moses say? How do you read it?” 27 The man answered, “‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your strength, and all your mind.’ And, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’” 28 “Right!” Jesus told him. “Do this and you will live!” 29 The man wanted to justify his actions, so he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”
30 Jesus replied with a story: “A Jewish man was traveling from Jerusalem down to Jericho, and he was attacked by bandits. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him up, and left him half dead beside the road. 31 “By chance a priest came along. But when he saw the man lying there, he crossed to the other side of the road and passed him by. 32 A Temple assistant walked over and looked at him lying there, but he also passed by on the other side. 33 “Then a despised Samaritan came along, and when he saw the man, he felt compassion for him. 34 Going over to him, the Samaritan soothed his wounds with olive oil and wine and bandaged them. Then he put the man on his own donkey and took him to an inn, where he took care of him. 35 The next day he handed the innkeeper two silver coins, telling him, ‘Take care of this man. If his bill runs higher than this, I’ll pay you the next time I’m here.’ 36 “Now which of these three would you say was a neighbor to the man who was attacked by bandits?” Jesus asked. 37 The man replied, “The one who showed him mercy.” Then Jesus said, “Yes, now go and do the same.”
New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois
Who is Our Neighbor?
Politicians tell us that the illegal alien, the Muslim refugee and the unborn baby are not our neighbors. But if we are truly Christians, Jesus defines who our neighbors are not politicians. Politicians encourage prejudice but not Jesus. Jesus places no limits on neighborliness. We may want to help our neighbors within our own towns, but not in another state or country. Yet, the Gospel must go in word and deed to the whole world. We want to limit our responsibility to others but our responsibility has no bounds. Neighbor literally means someone near but, in the Good Samaritan Jesus explains neighbor as any person “irrespective of race or religion with whom we live or whom we chance to meet”.
False Friends & Loving Enemies
We have all experienced the disappointment of false friends or perhaps been a false friend letting someone down when they needed us. People in business often pretend to be customer friendly but take our money and run. People running for office as “friends of the people” make promises only to break them once elected. Worst of all are the disappointments we find in church life where we like to think that we have better conduct than the world. We often don’t. We are more like the priest and Levite than the good Samaritan. We have all failed to be good friends. Only Jesus is a faithful friend. Even Christians can be deceived into considering him to be an enemy Samaritan.
When Calamities Come
Many robbers attack people today, strip people naked and leave them for dead. Corporations, governments, natural disasters, war, famine, disease, declining union influence, lack of education, fathers leaving the family, floods, domestic abuse, employment abuse, immigrant status, minority status, prejudice, disability, unemployment, low wage rates, high medical bills, fraud, oppression, theft, disasters, fire, inadequate health insurance, industrial change, foreign aggression, apathy, greed, laziness, overpopulation, inequality, abuse of power, indifference and many more things attack, strip and beat people, leaving them half dead. Are we too busy doing God’s business crossing to the other side, hurrying past hurting people and ignoring them, or are we the despised Samaritan that cares enough to do something to help our neighbor?
Here Jesus emphasizes loving our neighbor by works. Some Christians claim we just need to believe and not act, but that contradicts Jesus. James put it succinctly when he said that faith without works is dead, useless (James 2:18-26). As love of God is useless without love for neighbor, so love is visible in action. We don’t do good works to gain favor with God, but because we love him and our neighbor. The works that we do in love of our neighbor are like a bright light in a prominent place in our communities that gives glory to God (Matthew 5:16). When concluding the story of the Good Samaritan, Jesus’ teaching is to go and do likewise.
When Enemies Help and Friends Don’t Care
Why do mafia dons give away money to the poor, or drug lords help their communities, or corporate robber barons give away millions in philanthropic donations, or pro-abortion politicians sometimes help the poor more than conservative politicians? Even evil and murderous Hitler helped his country out of the great depression. Why is it that bad people sometimes do better than good people? That is the story of the Good Samaritan. Sometimes Christians try to boycott what they perceive to be bad companies, but the truth is we are all sinners and all commercial businesses are tainted by some kind of wrongdoing. The Good Samaritan teaches us that, sometimes enemies do good and friends don’t. Can an enemy be a friend?
Life or death
Do we obey the law of life or death (Romans 8:2)? In the southwest of the United States a Good Samaritan could get arrested for giving a drink to a dehydrated illegal immigrant attempting to cross the desert. In Jesus we obey a higher law, one that values human life no matter their status in this world. In the allegory of the Good Samaritan we are not told why the priest and Levite did not help the robbery victim. Perhaps they were attempting to obey Old Testament laws which forbade certain mingling with foreigners. Yet there were other laws which expressly instructed helping those in need. There is no ambiguity in Jesus. We are to love even our enemies.
Salvation in Pictures
Early church writer Origen suggested that the parable of the Good Samaritan is like an allegory of salvation in pictures. The injured man pictures Adam. The journey from Jericho to Jerusalem represents our journey from this world to paradise, the robbers who attacked, stripped and beat the man represent hostile powers. The priest pictures the law and the Levite the prophets. The Samaritan is Christ who we, in our fleshly lusts, treat as an enemy. The man’s wounds are what our disobedience to God does to us. The donkey pictures Jesus’ body which takes us first to the inn picturing the church, the manager is the pastor of the church, and the Samaritan promises to return just like Jesus will.
Jesus would not expect us to take this parable as a naïve lack of caution in regard to our enemies. It does not say that we allow our enemies to live among us unchecked, nor allow a false religion in, nor allow Samaritan terrorists or criminals into our land, nor does it mean that we give arms to our enemies.
Notice that the Good Samaritan helped the Jew. A Samaritan saved his enemy neighbor. Jesus died for his enemies. As Christians, we too are to love our enemies and that involves action. Jesus’ point was that giving aid to others crosses all lines.