Rethinking Love your neighbor as you love yourself

LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR…”AS YOU LOVE YOURSELF

(Rethinking the traditional interpretation of Luke 10:25‑37)

DISCLAIMER! It is difficult to conceive of a different meaning than I have been taught but on a recent reading the following thoughts developed.  In the spirit of Acts 17:11 I was trying to carefully understand the parable in context.  These ideas are entirely exploratory, tentative and not confidently held so the purpose of these thoughts is to think them through with my brothers.

I have been taught that the man in the ditch was the neighbor  (i.e. Anyone who has a need is our neighbor) but on rethinking this parable that is not what it teaches. The scribe asked “WHO” is my neighbor not “To whom shall I “BE” a neighbor”?   Of course we are to show love, compassion and mercy to those in need but are we commanded to love ALL OF THEM, “AS WE LOVE OURSELVES?”

When the expert in the law asked Jesus, “Who is my neighbor?”   Jesus answered, “I’ll tell you a story and you tell ME who your neighbor is?  After Jesus told the story He asked, Who was a neighbor to the man?  He did not ask, who was the Samaritans neighbor but rather “which one of the 3 was a neighbor to the man in the ditch”?  The Pharisee said the Samaritan was the neighbor and Jesus agreed.  From the perspective of the man in the ditch, the Levite and priest were not his neighbor and maybe he need not, “love them AS he loved himself”.

Application:

Maybe all people are not our neighbors in the sense that we are to, “LOVE THEM AS WE LOVE OURSELVES”. However, if we have a neighbor like the man in the ditch had we are to “love them, AS we love ourselves”.

This seems to be what the story teaches if interpreted literally.  It appears that our neighbor is the person who shows us mercy and who acts in a neighborly way. These are the people we are to “love, AS we love ourselves”. This makes more sense than everyone in the world is our neighbor and makes it much more achievable.  It’s more conceivable that we can love (“AS WE LOVE OURSELVES”) someone who has helped us in a time of need.  It appears that the person in need is in a position to recognize his or her neighbor.

The statement of Jesus, “Go and do likewise” does confuse us since it seems to indicate that we should “BE” a good neighbor.  Indeed, we should BE a neighbor to those around us but the story was told in response to the question, “who is MY neighbor”.  Maybe go and do likewise meant the man who was helped loved his neighbor as he loved himself and we are to do likewise.  (i.e. even if he was a Samaritan)  Or maybe Jesus took this opportunity to help the scribe know who his neighbor is and ALSO to teach that we should help those in need.  Whichever way we look at “go and do likewise” it is clear that the Samaritan is the neighbor and the man in the ditch should love him as he loves himself.

Since we have often missed the point of a story or Parable it is possible we have on this one as well?  i.e.; We, have given one of Christ’s parables the title, “The story of the prodigal son”.  It was not given that title by Jesus, and more probably it is the story of the loving, waiting and forgiving father.  We call this story the parable of “The GOOD Samaritan” but when Jesus told it, it was simply “a Samaritan.”

This interpretation would not relieve us of our responsibility to love every person we meet.  There are many scriptures about loving and helping the poor and those in need. The question for this parable is “who are we to love AS we love ourselves?”  I am continually open to rethinking my interpretations if it will lead me to a closer following of Jesus.  Hopefully, at the very least, the process of reevaluating our views will make us more confident of our Biblical convictions.