Bible Study for Sept. 23: Intentional love

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Luke 10:25-37
Daryel O’Barr, Drawng the Net Ministries
Woodstock

INTENTIONAL LOVE … go out of your way to love others.

Intentional adj. 1. Done on purpose; deliberate.

synonyms: deliberate, calculated, conscious, intended, planned, meant, studied, knowing, willful, purposeful, purposive, done on purpose, premeditated, preplanned, preconceived.

The command to love is based on how God has loved us. Since believers have been the recipients of love, they must love. Since Christ has laid down his life for us, we must be willing to lay down our lives for our brothers. ( 1 John 3:16).

Many people in Jesus’ day believed that a neighbor was a fellow Israelite. When asked to define “neighbor”, however, Jesus sighted the parable of the good Samaritan person who knowingly crossed traditional boundaries to help a wounded Jew. (Luke 10:29-37)

A neighbor is anyone in need. Jesus also told the disciples that a “neighbor” might even be someone who hates them, curses them, or mistreats them. Yet they must love their enemies. (Luke 6:27-36) as a witness and testimony.

The Old Testament charge was “to love your neighbor as yourself” (Lev.19: 18). But Jesus gave his disciples a new command with a radically different motive: ”Love each other as I have loved you”( John 15:12). Paul affirms that “the entire law is summed up in a single command: Love your neighbor as yourself” (Gal.5:14). James sees the command to love one another as a “royal law” (2:8).

Love is the motivation for evangelism. Christ’s love compels us to become ambassadors for Christ, with a ministry of reconciliation (2 Cor. 5:14).

Our lesson in Luke 10:29-37

How we respond to our neighbor and how we walk with God are connected; in fact, both Jesus and the lawyer connect the two concepts in Luke 10:27-28. Ethics is not an abstract question of options in a particular situation; it is a matter of character developed through a walk with God and a focus on Jesus (the Parable of the Good Samaritan –10:25-37).

In Jesus’ story, a man is overcome by a band of robbers and left on the road to die. As he lies there, his life passes before him. Then a priest comes down the road. The expectation culturally would be relief: “Surely help is on the way now.”

Luke’s statement that the priest appeared “by chance” (Greek) suggests a note of hope that fortune has smiled on the wounded man. The NIV renders this A priest happened to be going down the same road. 

But the priest does not stop. Rather, he crosses to the other side and keeps going. The detail about crossing the road is no accident. It is a brilliant use of literary space: the priest gets as far away as possible from the wounded man as he passes by.

A Levite, another potential source of aid, arrives on the scene. As one who served in the temple, he will surely have compassion and stop and render aid. But when he sees the man, he also crosses to the other side of the road and keeps on moving.

So, two men of similar Jewish background have failed to render aid. They have failed to be neighbors.

Interpreters speculate as to why they refused to help. Do they fear being jumped themselves? Do they fear being rendered unclean? The text gives us no reason. As is often the case, the bother and discomfort of helping have kept the man dying on the road.

Getting involved is costly, and for many the investment is too high. But to refuse to help is moral failure.

But now another traveler comes on the scene. In Greek the text highlights this man’s arrival by placing his ethnic identity, a Samaritan, at the front of the description. The scribe hearing Jesus tell the story must be thinking, “There will be no help from this half-breed.” But as often happens in Jesus’ parables, a twist on cultural expectations yields this story’s major point: the despised schismatic will be the model of neighborliness. Maybe “enemies” can love God and be examples.

Jesus’ question to close the story requires no brilliant reply: “Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?”

The lawyer knows, but he cannot even bring himself to mention the man’s race. The lawyer is choosy about his neighbors. He does not understand the call of God. Nevertheless, he answers, “The one who had mercy on him.”

This reply is correct, so Jesus simply says, “Go and do likewise.” 

Jesus’ point is, simply be a neighbor. Do not rule out certain people as neighbors. And his parable makes the point emphatically by providing a model from a group the lawyer had probably excluded as possible neighbors.

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