One day while Jesus was preaching, a man asked Him a question. This man had spent many years studying God’s law.
He said. “Teacher, what must I do to get to heaven?”
Jesus answered. “What does God’s law say? What do you think?”
The man answered. “Love God and others as much as I love myself.”
When Jesus told him he was right, the man asked. “But what others? Who is my neighbor? Who are the others I should be loving?”
Jesus explained by telling this story.
“There once was a man walking from Jerusalem to Jericho. He was alone and the road he followed was rocky, with many twists and turns. Suddenly, the robbers jumped out of nowhere. They attacked the man, beat him up and stole everything he had, even his clothes.
“The man lay bleeding to death on the side of the road and along came a priest. When he saw the man, he was so shocked, he stood and stared. The man could barely raise his head to beg for help but the priest only backed away. He tried not to look as he passed him as quickly as he could.
“The man lay in the dirt, moaning until a religious leader came along, one who preached the laws of Moses. He saw the man, all covered in blood and dirt and making funny noises in the ditch. He thought, ‘Oh, he looks terrible. I wouldn’t ever want to touch him. Besides, I’m sure he’s no one I know.’ And he passed him by as well.
“Then a Samaritan came walking along the road. The man who lay in the dirt was a Jew. Samaritans and Jews had been enemies for hundreds of years. Yet, the Samaritan came over to him. Very gently, he lifted the man’s head and brushed the dust out of his mouth. He took some water and cleaned the man’s eyes and gave him something to drink. He put wine on his wounds to clean them and make them heal quickly. Then, he carried the man and put him onto his donkey and brought him into town.
“There, the Samaritan gave some money to an innkeeper. He said. Put him in a clean bed and spend what ever you need to take good care of him until he is strong again.’ ”
“Now tell me,” Jesus added, “which of these three men was a true neighbor to the man who was robbed?”
The expert in Jewish law did not need to think very long. He said, “The one who helped him of course.”
Jesus then told him. “Then go and do just the same.”
Those who heard Jesus tell this story knew which people Jesus wanted His followers to love. The “others” were not just friends. Jesus wants His followers to love everybody, especially strangers and those in need.