In Jesus’ day, it was universally accepted that to shemah, or to love the Lord with all your heart, soul, and mind, was the most crucial commandment, but perspectives diverged in considering which statute was the second-most important. While teachers who were very rigid believed that honoring the Sabbath was of utmost priority, those who leaned towards grace commonly taught, as Jesus did, that the second-most sacred law was to love your neighbor as yourself. Such a belief was not shocking to those who were listening to our Lord teach, but where His interpretation became controversial was in His answer to the question, “Who is my neighbor?” Though some rabbis believed that “neighbors” were only fellow Jews, others stretched it so far as to say that they were Godly or even pagan Gentiles. However, everyone, even the most liberal, agreed that a neighbor could never be a Samaritan, because this group was so vehemently hated. In 722 B.C., when the evil, blood-thirsty Assyrians captured the Northern Kingdom of Israel, the hybrid Samaritan nation emerged, and they remained a reminder of humiliation to the Jews. A constant threat to the purity of the Hebrew way of life, they had a long history of antagonizing the Lord’s people. How utterly shocking it must have been, then, when Jesus told the young man who questioned Him that loving his neighbor meant going so far as helping a Samaritan. The thought of such a radical act would never have occurred to any astute teacher of the law — it was just too extreme!
My friend, you are called to love the unlovable. Especially in these tumultuous times, the world needs to see the heart and mind of Christ working in and through you. While many are fearfully tearing down the ones with whom they most strongly disagree, you have a divine assignment to be an ambassador of grace and kindness, even to the Samaritans who surround you. Never discount the dignity of another person because you can’t see eye-to-eye; instead, choose to affirm every precious soul made in the image of God, and rely on His grace to help you love them. You are a strong, kind, and compassionate disciple of Jesus, and He is filling you with His Spirit so you can be His hands, feet, and voice in these unsettling days.