On Sunday, I shared what the Bible teaches about the hateful speech directed towards people on the other side of the political spectrum. At the end of the post, I included Romans 13: 10, which says,
Love does no wrong to a neighbor;
therefore love is the fulfilling of the law. (ESV)
If you’re like me, commandments such as these send me hunting for loopholes. The logical question here is who is our neighbor? Surely not those environmentalist liberal socialists, right? Not those gun-toting oil-drilling conservatives? Not criminals like the gunman who shot 20 people in Tucson?
Jesus talked with someone looking for that same loophole in Luke 10:25-37. I like the way The Message tells the story.
Just then a religion scholar stood up with a question to test Jesus. “Teacher, what do I need to do to get eternal life?”
He [Jesus] answered, “What’s written in God’s Law? How do you interpret it?”
He said, “That you love the Lord your God with all your passion and prayer and muscle and intelligence—and that you love your neighbor as well as you do yourself.”
“Good answer!” said Jesus. “Do it and you’ll live.”
Looking for a loophole, he asked, “And just how would you define ‘neighbor’?”
Jesus answered by telling a story. “There was once a man traveling from Jerusalem to Jericho. On the way he was attacked by robbers. They took his clothes, beat him up, and went off leaving him half-dead. Luckily, a priest was on his way down the same road, but when he saw him he angled across to the other side. Then a Levite religious man showed up; he also avoided the injured man.
“A Samaritan traveling the road came on him. When he saw the man’s condition, his heart went out to him. He gave him first aid, disinfecting and bandaging his wounds. Then he lifted him onto his donkey, led him to an inn, and made him comfortable. In the morning he took out two silver coins and gave them to the innkeeper, saying, ‘Take good care of him. If it costs any more, put it on my bill—I’ll pay you on my way back.’
“What do you think? Which of the three became a neighbor to the man attacked by robbers?”
“The one who treated him kindly,” the religion scholar responded.
Jesus told him that anyone and everyone is our neighbor. No matter which side of any line they fall on. Even those you consider to be enemies. Like Democrats or Republicans or people of another faith or hate groups like Westboro and the KKK.
What about our schmuck neighbor? The corrupt money-laundering leader? Criminals? Those who mistreat or lie or falsely-accuse and scapegoat the innocent?
David gives us a beautiful answer in 1 Samuel 24 and 26. Saul, the king at the time, had totally screwed up. David had been designated to be the new king, but Saul was still on the throne and kept trying to kill David to protect his reign. David was on the run. In chapter 24 and in 26, David came face-to-face with two opportunities to kill Saul.
Did he do it?
He turned back, telling his men, “The LORD forbid that I should do this thing to my lord, the LORD’s anointed, to put out my hand against him, seeing he is the LORD’s anointed.” (1 Samuel 24:6)
David recognized that God had allowed Saul to become king. It wasn’t David’s place to force his way onto the throne. He would become king without him having to violate a commandment and take Saul’s life.
Further, In 1 Peter 4:14-16, Peter writes to Christians who were being killed because of a false accusation:
“If you’re abused because of Christ, count yourself fortunate.
It’s the Spirit of God and his glory in you that brought you to the notice of others.
If they’re on you because you broke the law
or disturbed the peace, that’s a different matter.
(The ESV says “let none of you suffer as a murderer
or a thief or an evildoer or as a meddler.”)
But if it’s because you’re a Christian, don’t give it a second thought.” (The Message)
The bottom line is, “those people” are our neighbors. We are never to do wrong against our neighbor. Not even if they wrong us. Not even if they kill us. This applies to our words as well as our deeds.
How do you need to change your thinking, speaking, and doing towards others?