good-samaritanBut he wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, “And who is my  neighbor?” (Lk 10:29)

Perhaps this expert in the mosaic Law was a bit flustered, or a bit embarrassed, or a bit prideful.  He just asked Jesus a question to which he answered himself: the way to inherit eternal life is by loving God with all that you are and to love your neighbor as yourself.

Perhaps he was flustered because Jesus didn’t provide any new law or nuance of the Law.  Maybe he wanted to “justify” his question.

Perhaps he was embarrassed because he took the time of this popular teacher in the presence of many people to ask a question to which he already knew the answer.  Maybe he wanted to “justify” his keen mind and “expertness.”

Perhaps he was trying to prove what his pride told him, that he already did love God and his neighbor as himself.  In a way, trying to argue his way into eternal life.  Maybe he wanted to “justify” his entrance into heaven.

And then Jesus does provide something new for this lawyer: an “interpretation” of the Law that had gotten lost in time and humanity’s drive for black and white rules.  Jesus clears away the distraction and comfort of rules and gets to the point.

This expert in the law had completely missed the Law.  He missed the intent.  The “spirit.”  He missed the heart of the Law.

To communicate this to His interrogator, Jesus tells a story about getting back to what is basic.  Back to what actually matters.  He tells the story of the Good Samaritan.

What doesn’t matter:  the nuisance and hassle of having to ceremonially wash oneself again after touching a beaten, dying, unclean traveller.  Walls we create between ourselves and others we dislike for whatever reason.  The various self-inflicted, informal rules.

What does matter: loving your neighbor.  

Even if, especially if, that neighbor is your enemy.  To the Jewish lawyer, a Samaritan, a “half-breed” who twists and edits parts of holy Scripture to validate their corrupted religion.  In the story, this very same Samaritan “got it,” while the pious Jews didn’t.

Jesus tells the lawyer to be a Samaritan.

That’s the Law.  The Law in action.  And it has everything to do with your heart, and nothing to do with jumping through hoops. 

For me, it means loving a particular employee of mine that I can’t stand.  Even if that means taking shots without returning fire, forcing my pride to break under love, and continuously extending grace even if none is returned.

All because I’m called to foster a heart to love God and my neighbor.  To touch, support, and heal the “unclean.”  To live a life that actually “gets it.”  And to let all the chips fall where they may.  

Because unlike our hearts,  the chips don’t matter.

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