Explore the Bible Study: Neighbors

9:11 PM

Have you ever helped someone who was in need? How did it make you feel? Whether you are the recipient or the giver of help, there is usually an incredible feeling of gratefulness. But, beyond the gratefulness we need to understand that these acts of loving our neighbor are to be a natural expression by those who profess Christ as their Savior. This is the focus of this Explore the Bible Study: Neighbors.

As you look at what is called The Parable of the Good Samaritan in Luke 10:25-37 don't miss the importance of the message Jesus is going to convey. Jesus taught that loving God also meant loving your neighbor as yourself.  You can’t have one without the other. If we truly love God, then we will love others as well. Jesus teaches this lesson during an encounter with a Jewish leader, an expert in the law, as Jesus journeyed toward Jerusalem for the culmination of His earthly ministry. 

The conversation begins with a series of questions that leads up to Jesus providing a lesson on what it truly means to love God and love people through the telling of the parable about the good Samaritan. The questions that are asked include:

  • "What must I do to inherit eternal life?" -- Luke 10:25. This question was asked by the expert in the law and was intended to catch Jesus in some type of theological trap. It backfired on the expert because Jesus responds with questions of His own. How do you answer this question?
  • Jesus asked, "What is written in the law? . . . How do you read it?" -- Luke 10:26. The Jewish leader responded with what he already knew was the correct answer. His answer ties two significant passages together—Deuteronomy 6:5 (part of the Shema) and Leviticus 19:18: “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.” (Luke 10:27, CSB) Jesus affirms the answer but adds one very important statement, "Do this and you will live." (Luke 10:28, CSB) 
This legal expert knew what Deuteronomy 27:26 states as the penalty for breaking even one of the laws. It states: ‘Anyone who does not put the words of this law into practice is cursed.’ Later in the New Testament James reminds us that "whoever keeps the entire law, and yet stumbles at one point, is guilty of breaking it all." (James 2:10, CSB). 

I'm sure that, at this point, the legal expert had flashes of memories when he had broken the law of loving his neighbor. Jesus' one simple statement revealed the impossibilities of anyone being able to gain eternal life through good works and the legal expert knew this. In an effort to get out of the corner Jesus had put him in he asks another question:
  • Who is my neighbor? -- Luke 10:29, CSB. This was the mans attempt to justify his sinful actions but Jesus had a story to tell that would reveal how someone who really loved God would love others.
In the story of the Good Samaritan that follows in Luke 10:30-35 Jesus describes how three individuals respond to someone (a neighbor) who has been robbed and left for dead on the side of the road. The three individuals include two Jewish religious leaders--a priest and a Levite--and one unlikely individual--a Samaritan. One would think the religious leaders would be the ones who would respond to the person who was in need because they knew God's law and were God's people. They knew what they should do but didn't act on it because they truly did not love God. If they had, they would have loved this neighbor. 

But, the Samaritan, one whom would be viewed as unloveable by the Israelites, was the one who truly loved as one should if he truly loved God. 

Jesus ends the story with a powerful and convicting question for this expert, “Which of these three do you think proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of the robbers?” “The one who showed mercy to him,” he said. Then Jesus told him, “Go and do the same.” (Luke 10:36-37, CSB)

This brings me to three questions for you to consider:
  • First, do you truly love God? Have you placed your faith in Jesus Christ? Are you striving to learn how to love God with your total being?
  • Second, if you say you love God and are striving to love Him even more, how is that being reflected in how you love your neighbor? Do you only love people who are convenient to love or who are just like you? Do you only love those who agree with you?
  • Third, have you expanded your view of who your neighbor is? Is it the neighbors who live near you? Is it the random person you encounter who has a need? Are you so moved with compassion for those around you that you will do anything to share and show the good news of Jesus to them?

The downloadable teaching helps provides more details for this study along with some tools you can use in guiding your group to apply this session both personally and as a group.

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