Love is the key ingredient for a healthy relationship. In a healthy relationship both individuals feel loved and supported. They know they are loved.
God is love. God loves us. God sent His only Son, Jesus, to love us and show us we are loved. Jesus commands us to love ourselves as God loves us. In turn, we love God as Jesus first loved us with His whole heart, soul, strength and mind on the cross.
Jesus commanded us to love others as ourselves. We accept Christ’s love, we love God, we love ourselves and share that love with others. Love is a command.
“‘Love …As I have loved you,’” John 13:34
- What have we learned about healthy relationships? What makes a relationship healthy?
We want healthy relationships. We want to be loved and supported. We don’t have to guess how to love our neighbor because God tells us how to love our neighbor (Exodus 20, Luther’s Small Catechism with Explanation). God’s commandments provide the healthy habits for loving relationships. They provide a simple structure of respect that we all deserve. When we follow these rules we are loving God, others and our self.
God wants us to call out when we are in trouble, to praise His name or give thanks. We want to hear our name used in kindness. Our neighbor wants us to use their name in kindness.
God wants to spend time with us. We want someone to spend time with us and our neighbor wants someone to spend time with them. God, our neighbor and we want someone to listen when we speak.
And we are hurt when someone misuses our name, we get jealous and we want anyone who hates us to be punished. If God wants these things and we want these things than it is fair to assume our neighbor wants these things. We love others the way we love God and the way we love ourselves.
- So let’s review God’s basic lessons on how to “be nice” to our neighbor. Make a note next to the ones you’d like to improve.
- Serve, love, honor, cherish and respect our parents, neighbor and anyone in authority in our home, church, work or community.
- Do not hurt or harm anyone. Protect our neighbor’s health and welfare. Feed, give our neighbor something to drink, invite strangers in, clothe our neighbor, care for them when sick and visit them in prison. Matthew 25:31-46
- We love and respect our sexuality. We don’t take advantage of our neighbor’s sexuality. We learn to control our sexual impulses and respect our neighbor’s choices. We don’t take advantage of the vulnerable. And treat sex as a special gift of God. We love, honor and respect our partner. We remain faithful.
- We help improve and protect our neighbor’s possessions and income.
- We love the truth. We speak the truth about God, our neighbor and ourselves. We are honest. We do not betray, slander or hurt our neighbor with our words.
- We protect our neighbor’s property, blessings and loved ones. We never wish harm on our neighbor. We help restore what is lost or stolen.
The commandments tell us how to love. The Golden Rule to “treat others the way you want to be treated” Matthew 7:12 is another summary of the commandments.
Unfortunately, many love others poorly because they treat themselves poorly. They treat others the way they have been treated. The Golden rule encourages us to treat others the way we want to be treated, not the way we are treated.
God has a great sense of humor because the Golden Rule comes right after Christ asks in Matthew 7:9-10, “Which one of you, will give your son a stone when he asks for bread? Or a snake if he asks for fish?”
When we take the Golden Rule literally and give others exactly what we want them to give to us, we are giving our neighbor a stone when they ask for bread. For example, Jayne washes Tyler’s dishes because Jayne feels loved when someone washes her dishes. But Tyler doesn’t notice Jayne did her dishes because she went to rescue a puppy she hopes Jayne will like but neither appreciates their gift because of miscommunication.
Unhealthy relationships lack healthy communication. Miscommunication reaps resentment, resentment reaps excuses which are translated into permission to treat others poorly. The Golden rule is twisted into an ethic of reciprocity or two-way rule has been used as an excuse to treat others badly. If our neighbor fails to love us, we don’t have to love them.
- How far do I have to go in loving my neighbor? What if my neighbor isn’t nice to me?
Jesus answers this question in our theme verses and parable.
Read Luke 10: 25-28
On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?”
“What is written in the Law?” Jesus replied. “How do you read it?”
He answered, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’”
“You answered correctly,” Jesus replied. “Do this and live.”
Our expert knows love is the one word summary of all the commandments and laws given by God (Exodus 20, Deuteronomy 5). Our expert is looking for a loop hole. Like us, he seeks permission to end his obligation to some of his neighbors. He asks for clarification.
Read Luke 10: 29-37
But he wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”
In reply Jesus said: “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he was attacked by robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead.
- What does the man need from our “be nice” list? Identify and discuss vulnerable people in the news or community. What do they need?
He is naked, hurt, broke and vulnerable. We shouldn’t harm him any further. We should be truthful and not make up stories or blame him. We should respect his sexuality. We should clothe and get him medical attention. We should help restore what he has lost.
Read Luke 10:31-32
A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side.So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side.
- Do we have priests and Levites in our society?
It is fun being a biblical spectator identifying the bad guy, rolling my eyes at the stupid guys and weeping over the least, lost and left out. It is story time. We’re not in the hot seat. Sit back and relax.
God, particularly Jesus, seems really hard on priests. Christ talks bad about the clergy, identifying their mistakes and chastising them for keeping the rules but missing the grace. What often gets lost in the translation or sermon is – love. We hear the rebuke, feel the sting and hope we never experience the wrath of God.
Truth be told, we’ve already been reformed into the priesthood of Christ (1 Peter 2:9-10). We may reject the collar but we were baptized into the priesthood. And like the priests in our story, we mess up.
Like the priest and the Levite, we are impure priests. As a congregation, we fail when we ignore the pleas of our neighbor.
Read Luke 10:33
But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him.
Because of this parable, a Samaritan is now considered the definition of kindness but the expert in the law didn’t have a positive opinion of the Samaritan. The expert considered the Samaritan an inferior ethnic group. The expert would be shocked the Samaritan took pity on the man and perhaps pitied the man for being touched by the Samaritan.
- Identify and discuss the unlikely ‘Samaritan” heroes treated with disgust but prayerfully become our neighbors.
Prayerfully, our children will live in an age when they can see people in the LGBT community as heroes. They aren’t taught to be afraid of transgender. They don’t clutch their purses or call the police when they see a person of color. They simply lift their arms and faces to wave and say hello.
Read Luke 10:34-35
He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, brought him to an inn and took care of him. The next day he took out two days wages and gave them to the innkeeper. ‘Look after him,’ he said, ‘and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.’
- Discuss the ways the Samaritan cared for the man. Was it too excessive? Where can someone get this level of care?
The Samaritan believed in the same God as our expert. He was guided by the same do good list. He was taught to ‘Love your neighbor as yourself’. This parable implies the Samaritan must have loved himself to give the man such extraordinary care.
Read Luke 10:36-37
“Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?”
The expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him.”
- Notice our expert doesn’t say “the Samaritan” was the neighbor. How many people are part of this story? How many are “neighbors”?
We all become a player in this parable, yet not everyone was a neighbor to the man. Therefore, Jesus’ message to our expert is also to us.
Read Luke 10:38
Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.”
“Love does no harm to its neighbors. Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.” Romans 13:10
- Discuss ways you and your congregation can love like the Samaritan.
“‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love __(Name or Relationship)_ as yourself.’” Luke 10: 27 (NIV)
Homework: Read Matthew 25:31-46. Find a way to care for Jesus this week. Read our “be nice” list adding “God loves me” before reading each commandment.
Pray: Gracious Lord, help me hear your voice and feel your embrace. Give me the courage to care for the least, lost and left out. Help me to see those in need and give them comfort. Amen.