Neighbor Love

The Nazareth Page - A gospel meditation for your home Depositphotos_102690360_m-2015-parents.jpg

May 19, 2019 – Fifth Sunday of Easter - John 13:31-35

A Commandment Quiz: How many commandments did God give to us though Moses? This is not hard to answer, especially if you are a movie buff because a movie was made many years back about this. Ten commandments, of course. Now to advance to the next level of our quiz, you must answer the following question: How many commandments did Jesus give us? Hint. The answer is found in today’s gospel. He called it “a new commandment.” And it turns out that it is the hardest commandment of all to follow.

Jesus said that we are to love each other as he loves us. And how much does he love us? To put it in simple (yet very challenging) words, he gave his life for us. He lived in service to us. And not just to some of us, but to all of us. His love was without limit. One way to describe his love was to call it “unconditional.” And it is that same kind of love that Jesus invites us to have for each other.

It is interesting that there is no mention of “loving God” in his commandment. That’s because the way we show our love for God the most is when we love our neighbor. In formulating this commandment, no one can say that Jesus is soft. Or that his demands are minimal. In fact, if you understand the nature of neighbor love through the actions of Jesus, you get a sense of how difficult this is. When encountering need in anyone, he responded with a full and generous heart.

On one occasion, he was asked to describe “neighbor love” as he understood it. He proceeded to tell the story of the Good Samaritan, perhaps the most challenging story of assisting one’s neighbor in all the gospels.

In his time, Samaritans were Jews who have “left the fold” of good Jews. Many had married those outside the Jewish religion, and they refused to worship where good Jews did, namely at the temple in Jerusalem. They had established a kind of rival religion. It was customary for Jews to stay clear of Samaritans.

So, in placing a Samaritan as an ideal when describing “love of neighbor,” Jesus would have caused no small reaction from for his listeners. The goodness of this “outsider” takes on almost heroic dimensions when he does all he can do to help the poor fellow who had been beaten and robbed on the road from Jericho to Jerusalem. This was an example of exceedingly generous love. Just like Jesus would have done.

©David M. Thomas, PhD

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