Loving your neighbor as yourself. I’m republishing this post from a while back (2014) as the Samaritan story has been coming up a lot lately.
I’ve often wondered how to “love yourself.” Have you?
In Luke 10:29-37, Jesus told the story of a “certain man” going from Jerusalem to Jericho who was robbed, beaten, stripped naked, and left for dead. In this story, there were three different responses to this “certain man”, as given by the priest, the Levite, and the Samaritan.
The first question of the heart revolves around “who is my neighbor?” However, there’s a second question seldom discussed which is “how do I love myself?”
I’m discovering that the more I allow the scriptures to speak into my life and apply to me, personally, the more I find myself resembling the characters in the scriptures. I could be David one moment and Saul the next.
Here’s the text for our story:
Luke 10:25-35 (NKJV)
And behold, a certain lawyer stood up and tested Him, saying, “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” He said to him, “What is written in the law? What is your reading of it?” So he answered and said, “‘You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind,’ and ‘your neighbor as yourself.’ ” And He said to him, “You have answered rightly; do this and you will live.” But he, wanting to justify himself, said to Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” Then Jesus answered and said: “A certain man went down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell among thieves, who stripped him of his clothing, wounded him, and departed, leaving him half dead. “Now by chance a certain priest came down that road. And when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. “Likewise a Levite, when he arrived at the place, came and looked, and passed by on the other side. “But a certain Samaritan, as he journeyed, came where he was. And when he saw him, he had compassion. “So he went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine; and he set him on his own animal, brought him to an inn, and took care of him. “On the next day, when he departed, he took out two denarii, gave them to the innkeeper, and said to him, ‘Take care of him; and whatever more you spend, when I come again, I will repay you.’
While, the Greek text doesn’t exactly use the word “naked,” it does say he was stripped of his clothing as part of being robbed. The scriptures often describe things in subtle euphemisms rather than direct speech. Certainly a humiliating process of being robbed, beaten, stripped of your clothing and left as half dead.
Think of your reaction to a naked guy, clearly beaten up, bloody, lying on the side of the road. To most people, they would be repulsed, and at the very least not want to get involved.
My wife, daughter, and I were eyewitnesses to a motorcycle accident lately. Most people didn’t stop. Where were they? They probably didn’t want to get involved. They had places to go, important things to attend to. The guy was beat up, lying face down in the middle of the highway. My wife prayed that he would live. Miraculously, he was alive, and while mostly out of it, was able to answer simple questions. His female friend, whose car he ran into, brought towels to slow the bleeding. He had major head trauma, and couldn’t move his arms. I went over and prayed for him, as police officers soon arrived on the scene. At one point one of the officers had me hold a towel over him for modesty, as he had to be stripped out of his clothing for his flight-to-life ride to the hospital. We prayed for his female friend, and continued to pray for him afterwards. Were we inconvenienced? Of course, but does it any of it matter compared to doing the right thing? You realize the fragility of life and how so much of what we think is important, isn’t.
For the “certain man” in our parable, people would ask themselves, “what did he do?” Did he have it coming? Did he rob someone? The scriptures state that mercy triumphs over judgment (James 2:13). The Samaritan in the story allowed himself to be moved with compassion.
What was surprising to me this morning in hearing the parable that Jesus shares in response to the question “who is my neighbor?” was that I found myself not as one of the three characters walking by the one beaten and left for dead, but rather the one left by the side of the road. I don’t think it was any accident that Jesus phrased it, “a certain man.”
I realized that I was that man. I was poor, half-dead in my sin nature, helpless, repulsive, and naked. Those who have loved me have clothed me, and looked past my condition (love is a covering). The point in the story that I never saw before was Jesus is describing how to love your neighbor as yourself. He is describing our true condition before letting love save us.
Look at the care given to this “certain man” in our parable. The one who was formerly our enemy (Samarians were often thought of as enemies by the Jewish community) offers us mercy in our pitiful state.
Luke 10:34-35 (NKJV)
So he went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine; and he set him on his own animal, brought him to an inn, and took care of him. On the next day, when he departed, he took out two denarii, gave them to the innkeeper, and said to him, ‘Take care of him; and whatever more you spend, when I come again, I will repay you.’
I want to suggest to you that the Samaritan in this story typifies Christ, and the innkeeper as the Father. Christ lay down his life for us as a complete stranger.
Christ comes to us in our brokenness. He was sent to heal the brokenhearted and bind up our wounds (Luke 4:18, Ps 147:3). The common Arabic understanding was that wine was used to purify a wound, and oil was used to soften the damages. That said, I find the symbols of wine and oil striking. Oil is a symbol of anointing. Wine is a symbol of new life. The very areas of our wounding will become the place of anointing and new life for us as we are healed. In those places where we find healing, we will have mercy and anointing for others. Isn’t it our acceptance of His free gift that will raise us up again? He finds a way to carry us to our destiny, as it’s not something we can manage without His help. He has overpaid the debt required to take care of us. He has prepared a place for us.
The amount paid for our care is interesting. Two denarii is an amount for two days wages (Matt 20:2). Could this be the amount required to sustain us before our resurrection (the third day)? Two is often the number of witness. Is the amount paid for us to be a witness of the mercy of God?
I had always wondered what the ‘as yourself’ part meant in the love your neighbor command. As you begin to see yourself as the “certain man”, naked, repulsive, poor, and half dead, you will begin to understand how God has loved you, shown you mercy, cared for you, and paid the full price for your healing and resurrection. As you recognize the mercy shown to you, you will be able to show mercy to others.
That, I believe is how you love yourself.