Today's Devotional

My Enemy, My Neighbor? (16 May)

If you happen to see your enemy's cow or donkey running loose, take it back to him. If his donkey has fallen under its load, help him get the donkey to its feet again; don't just walk off.
Exodus 23:4-5
Love your enemies and do good to them; lend and expect nothing back. You will then have a great reward, and you will be children of the Most High God. For he is good to the ungrateful and the wicked. Be merciful just as your Father is merciful.
Luke 6:35-36

When Jesus was asked what was the greatest commandment, he added the second commandment at no extra charge: "You will love your neighbor as yourself." At that time there was a lively debate going on among the religious leaders as to who exactly is my neighbor. One of the Torah experts, of course, asked Jesus that very question, and Jesus told him the parable of the good Samaritan (Luke 10).

But actually, Jesus' words in Luke 6 make the whole discussion seem a bit superfluous. It makes little difference if "love your neighbor" includes only your own people or also people who do not belong to your nation (which was the essence of the argument), because Jesus says we are to love even our enemies. So clearly, for Jesus, the command to love your neighbor must include also those who are not like you. In fact, the hero of the parable he told belonged to the Samaritans, a people who were considered to be among Israel's enemies at that time. Jesus was including them among the "neighbors."

Just how wide this extends becomes evident when we consider that (Proverbs 14:21) says that it is a sin even to despise your neighbor. According to Jesus, then, it would be a sin to despise those we consider to be our enemies.

We only have to open a newspaper or turn or a radio or television, and we will have plenty of people telling us who our enemies are. Actually, I get rather tired of it. To tell the truth, I guess I would prefer to choose my own enemies.

At the end of the day, as always, my first concern is not to focus on who my enemy (or my neighbor) is. My focus must always be my relationship with my God. "When you please the Lord, you can make your enemies into friends." (Proverbs 16:7)

- 16 MAY -

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