The one who does not love does not know God, for God is love.
–1 John 4:8
The story of the good Samaritan teaches us, first of all, that a true neighbor is anyone in need–whether it is a friend, a stranger, or an enemy. But Jesus was more interested in who acted like a neighbor. That was the point He made in Luke 10:36: “Which of these three do you think proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell into the robbers’ hands?” The lawyer answered, “The one who showed mercy toward him.” And Jesus said, “Go and do the same” (v. 37).
That leads to a second principle: a true disciple of Jesus Christ is one who demonstrates compassion. In 1 John 4:8, the apostle wrote, “The one who does not love does not know God, for God is love.” It was Friar John Hugo who said, “We love God as much as the one we love least.” A true measure of our discipleship is our compassion toward other people.
Third, true love meets the needs of others. Love is not syrupy, sentimental emotion. Love is a willingness to meet the genuine needs of those around us. It may mean sacrificing our money, our time, or our plans. It may mean putting down the television remote so that we can listen to our mate and meet their need for conversation. It may mean postponing our desire for early retirement so that we can meet the financial needs of our children or elderly parents. But we need to remember that the greatest need of the people around us is to have their sins forgiven.
Years ago, a film crew came to interview me for a documentary on the separation of church and state. The person who interviewed me was a member of a religious cult. About thirty minutes into the interview, he said, “Pastor, do you believe in the story of the good Samaritan?” When I said yes, he looked me straight in the eyes and said, “Do you believe I’m your neighbor?”
Again I said yes, and he replied, “Then why are you trying to convert me to Christianity?” He thought that by sharing my faith with him, I was hurting him, insulting him. So I said, “I believe that sin has beaten us up and left us for dead in this world and that we are in danger of spending an eternity separated from God. The easiest thing for me to do would be to walk on by and say nothing. But I love you enough that I want to share with you the only way you can have eternal life, and that’s through Jesus Christ.” The most loving thing we can do for people is share with them the only way to be saved.
Today’s devotion is excerpted from “A Stranger In Need Meets A Neighbor In Deed” by Dr. Robert Jeffress, 2008.
John Hugo, as quoted in Dorothy Day, “On Pilgrimage,” ed. Robert Ellsberg (New York: Orbis, 2022), October-November 1973: Fall Appeal.
Scripture quotations taken from the (NASB®) New American Standard Bible®, Copyright © 1960, 1971, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission. All rights reserved. www.lockman.org