“Of all the commandments, which is the most important?”
Mark 12:28b NLT
On long road trips, my parents used to let us listen to a Bible-based fictional series called Adventures in Odyssey. Every episode centers around the same core characters in a small town called Odyssey, wrestling with normal life and typical challenges that get resolved by applying Biblical wisdom.
One of the episodes re-created the parable of The Good Samaritan. In the Bible version, Jesus tells this story to answer the question ‘who is my neighbor?’. A traveling Jewish man is attacked, robbed and left within inches of death. A traveling Priest sees him lying there and walks by him, offering no help. A Temple Assistant also passes by without lifting a finger. The third person to see the dying man is his sworn enemy – a Samaritan – and this man doesn’t even hesitate to do everything in his power to save the Jew’s life.
It’s important to see everyone as our neighbor, worthy of love and care no matter what.
In Odyssey, the neighbor who they found difficult to love wasn’t an injured Jewish man. He was an extremely annoying 11 year old. This kid talked constantly, asked questions obsessively, had really bad hygiene, got defensive and argumentative about most topics, and appeared to have no clue about social cues. The person who ended up being the “good Samaritan” to him was the kid who decided to befriend him anyway, regardless of his awkwardness.
I bring this up because God keeps pushing me to re-consider who my neighbor is. I’m going to get really real here and admit that sometimes – especially during summer vacation – the people I have the most struggle with being neighborly with are my own kids. They talk constantly. They ask questions obsessively. Their hygiene is muddy, at best. Defensive and argumentative are words I would use to describe their GOOD days and I won’t even get into social cues.
But they are my neighbors. No amount of [creative devotional writings, sweet worship singing, epic financial sacrifices, or casserole giving] to others makes up for me being [short-tempered and unloving] to my own children.
In Mark 12:28-34 Jesus answers the question ‘Of all the commandments, which is the most important?’. He says:
“The Lord our God is the one and only Lord. And you must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind, and all your strength. The second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ No other commandment is greater than these.” (Mark 12:29b-31 NLT)
Loving my neighbor is kind of a big deal. Even if:
- my neighbor is an argumentative, sassy, 18-going-on-FIVE year old.
- my neighbor is an over-tired, super sensitive, perfectionist seven year old.
- my neighbor is a hyperactive, under-focused, video-game obsessed 12 year old.
I don’t know about anyone else out there, but every season of my life brings a new type of “neighbor” that I struggle with loving. This summer it looks like my kids are the ones who I get to practice being a good samaritan to. But it could be anyone, really. Maybe in the fall it will be someone else. All I know for sure is, it’s a really good things God is the master neighbor-lover. I would be in serious trouble if he didn’t already perfectly love ME as his neighbor, especially when:
- I’m a grumpy, frustrated, burnt-out-on-the-first-week-of-summer-vacation Mom.
- I’m a snarky, sarcastic, stingy kisser wife.
- I’m a selfish, under-encouraging, forgot-to-pray-for-you-AGAIN friend.
Dear Lord, in your Bible it says that you ARE love. When I love my sons, my husband, my friends and my enemies, I’m actually not doing it right unless I’m doing it like you taught me. That means loving with NO strings attached and loving even when it’s hard to like. Give me a soft heart, full of courage and mercy, to treat everyone how the good samaritan did. Amen.