"You have heard that it was said, “Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.” But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you." Matthew 5:43-44
From a distance, the priest thought it must be roadkill left by wild animals. But as he drew closer, he heard humanlike moaning, and he could tell it was a man’s bloodied body. Robbers had done this, stealing all the man had and leaving him to die. The priest moved as far away as he could. “He’s almost dead anyway,” he thought. “I don’t have time for this.” He hurried on. The next man who passed reacted similarly. “I can’t get involved with this unclean mess,” thought the priestly assistant as he veered around the scene of the crime. The third man who eventually came along was a Samaritan who immediately stopped. After some first aid, he lifted the victim onto his donkey and transported him into the city. He treated the man’s wounds all day and night, then paid the innkeeper to continue. “'Which of these three do you think was a neighbor?' asked Jesus. 'The one who had mercy on him.' the expert in the law replied." (Luke 10:36-37)
Did you ever notice the man trying to prove a point to Jesus couldn’t even bring himself to say the word Samaritan? That’s because the Jews hated the Samaritans. The prejudice went back thousands of years in their shared ancestry when the tribes of Jacob split. Talk about a grudge! The groups had fought battles and disagreed about worshiping God (the Samaritans had their own temple, as if the Jews would have let them in at Jerusalem anyway).
But when Jesus told a story to illustrate God’s command to love your neighbor as yourself, He flipped the religious teachings on their head. The hated Samaritan lived out God’s love. He loved his enemy. He pleased God. And as Jesus taught, God’s love and salvation are for everyone, enemies included. There is freedom in loving others, even those we don’t like.
Who do you have trouble loving? How can you reach out to them with love this week?