Our neighbors…who are they?
Are they the people who live next door to us?
Are they people who believe as we do?
Are they people who look like us?
Are they all the people in the world?
Yes, all of them and more, for if we love the Lord our God with all our heart, soul, might, and mind, as the Bible teaches us, then we should also love the whole of God’s creation, which includes not only the people we mentioned above, but also all the animals, and the environment in which we all live.
If we are living in the heavenly will of God, and doing all of these things, then our love, compassion, and empathy should extend to every other living being (human and animal), and we should feel their pain, their suffering, and their joy in ourselves, as if these feelings are our own.
We also need to remember as we look at our Bible verses for today that both Jesus and Paul are talking to humans about humans in human terms; they are not talking about the whole of God’s creation, which we believe is because of the people’s spiritual immaturity.
However, we believe that we (all of us) have matured spiritually, and understand the heavenly will of God and its application here on earth.
Let’s think about these things as we look at Luke 10:25-37…
25. And behold, a certain lawyer stood up and put Him [Jesus] to the test, saying, "Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?"
It’s important to note the lawyer’s worldly intent to put Jesus to the test; he is not seeking a true spiritual unity with Jesus.
26. And He said to him, "What is written in the Law? How does it read to
27. And he answered and said, "You shall 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 your neighbor as yourself."
Isn’t this what we talked about above?
This lawyer seems to know the truth, but still seems to want to live in the corrupt ways of this world.
What a shame; but unfortunately, many people in the world seem to be just like him, particularly when we think about people in our churches, including pastors.
They know the words, but they really don’t understand what it means to love our neighbors as ourselves.
If we love our neighbors as ourselves that means that we all feel in our selves what they feel, because our empathy puts us in their place, whether they are humans or animals.
If something is not just or right for us or them, then we should do everything in our power to end the injustice, just as we will see that the Samaritan did in the upcoming parable.
This is why Jesus replies to him as follows, even if the lawyer didn’t fully understand.
28. And He said to him, "You have answered correctly; do this, and you will
29. But wishing to justify himself, he said to Jesus, "And who is my neighbor?"
This is how people fall back into the corrupt ways of this world; they
deliberately or unconsciously abandon the heavenly will of God.
And because this lawyer doesn’t fully understand, Jesus decided to tell a parable to help him and the others gathered there to better understand what He is trying to teach them.
30. Jesus replied and said, "A certain man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho; and he fell among robbers, and they stripped him and beat him, and went off leaving him half dead.
If we have empathy, we should feel this man’s pain and suffering, and if we also love our neighbor as ourselves, then we should desire to help him.
31. "And by chance a certain priest was going down on that road, and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side.
This priest certainly doesn’t love his neighbor as himself, and because he passed by on the other side of the road, it tells us that this man was in trouble and needed help, but because of this priest’s hardness of heart, he didn’t want to help.
32. "And likewise a Levite also, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side.
We can say the same thing about this Levite that we said about the priest, and we need to remember that both the priest and the Levite are Jews, and religious leaders, which we believe is the reason why Jesus uses them as examples in this parable.
33. "But a certain Samaritan [a non-Jew], who was on a journey, came upon
him; and when he saw him, he felt compassion,
34. and came to him, and bandaged up his wounds, pouring oil and wine on them; and he put him on his own beast, and brought him to an inn, and took care of him.
35. "And on the next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper and said, 'Take care of him; and whatever more you spend, when I return, I will repay you.'
We should obviously understand the difference between this Samaritan and the priest and the Levite, so Jesus asks…
36. "Which of these three do you think proved to be a neighbor to the man
who fell into the robbers' hands?"
37. And he said, "The one who showed mercy toward him." And Jesus said to him, "Go and do the same."
Because we are hopefully living in the heavenly will of God, we should also
understand that we need to apply these concerns and actions to every other
living being, whether they are human or animal.
Our empathy makes us feel what our neighbors feel, and our love and compassion makes us want to help and not turn our backs to their needs.
Let’s go on and take a look at Colossians 1:1-14, and see if we can find some examples for loving our neighbors as ourselves.
1. Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God, and Timothy our
2. to the saints and faithful brethren in Christ who are at Colossae: Grace to you and peace from God our Father.
Paul is greeting the people in the peace of the Lord, but we believe that he
is limiting the peace of God to humans and not to the whole of creation, and
in particular to the animals, for they suffer at the hands of humans, which
he doesn’t address.
Jesus tells us that we can accomplish even more than He was able to do, as we are told in John 14:12…
12. I tell you the truth, anyone who has faith in me will do what I have
been doing. He will do even greater things than these, because I am going to
So in this light, we need to realize that we can do even more than Paul and
the other apostles were able to do.
We can and should live in the heavenly will of God and bring His will to earth as it is in heaven; then and only then will we truly know what it means to love our neighbors (human and animal) as ourselves.
And Paul goes on…
3. We give thanks to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, praying
always for you,
4. since we heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and the love which you have for all the saints;
Let’s pause here for a minute and reflect on what we are told, and what we
are not told.
Sure, we should love all the saints (the human believers), but aren’t we also to love all our neighbors as ourselves, whether or not they believe or are human?
Let’s go on…
5. because of the hope laid up for you in heaven, of which you previously
heard in the word of truth, the gospel,
6. which has come to you, just as in all the world also it is constantly bearing fruit and increasing, even as it has been doing in you also since the day you heard of it and understood the grace of God in truth;
But we need to constantly be growing in the sight of God here on earth, as well as spiritually in the heavenly will and realm of God.
7. just as you learned it from Epaphras, our beloved fellow bond-servant,
who is a faithful servant of Christ on our behalf,
8. and he also informed us of your love in the Spirit.
We can hope that their love was in the heavenly will of God, but more importantly, we need to make sure that our love in the Spirit is being a witness to others in this earthly abode, that others will see and want to also live in the heavenly will of God here on earth as it is in heaven.
9. For this reason also, since the day we heard of it, we have not ceased to
pray for you and to ask that you may be filled with the knowledge of His
will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding,
10. so that you may walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, to please Him in all respects, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God;
This is what we are talking about.
This is living in the heavenly will of God.
This is how we learn to truly love our neighbors as ourselves.
But what else are we to be doing?
11. strengthened with all power, according to His glorious might, for the
attaining of all steadfastness and patience; joyously
12. giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified us to share in the inheritance of the saints in light.
Why do we receive these things?
13. For He delivered us from the domain of darkness, and transferred us to
the kingdom of His beloved Son,
14. in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.
If this is the way we have become, then we will never again have to ask or
wonder who our neighbors are, for we will know that they include every other
living being upon this earth.
This is living in the heavenly will of God here on earth as it is in heaven.