By Phillip Hines
There is probably some prejudice in all of us. Certainly, there was some in the Bible. Even during the time of Jesus, racial tension existed.
From the perspective of the Jew, the social ladder had three rungs on it. At the top was the Jew. If you were born in Israel, you were at the top.
On the second rung you had the Samaritans.
The Samaritans came about from the intermarriage of the Jewish people with the Assyrians some 700 years before Christ was born. This brought about a feud between the Jews and Samaritans that lasted for centuries. The Jews would not even go through Samaria when they traveled; they would go around, even though it doubled the time of the journey.
On the bottom rung of this ladder would be the Gentiles. These were the non-Jews. The Jews of that day considered the Gentiles to be dirty. They would not go into their houses or eat dinner with them. The Gentiles were not even allowed into the temple.
Enter Jesus of Nazareth.
No one in history has done more to break down racial barriers than this carpenter. He faced this issue head on.
Early in his ministry, you see Him travel through Samaria and offer the water of life to a Samaritan woman. At the end of his ministry, He instructed His disciples to go and make disciples of all the nations (Matthew 28:19).
To me, His most powerful teaching on this subject is found in Luke 10.
A lawyer had asked Jesus about eternal life. Jesus answered the question with a question. He asked, “What is written in the law? What is your reading of it?” (Luke 10:26)
The lawyer knew the answer. He replied, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind,’ and ‘your neighbor as yourself.'” (Luke 10:27)
The lawyer asked, “Who is my neighbor?” (Luke 10:29) It was then that Jesus told this unforgettable story:
A man was traveling from Jerusalem to Jericho when he fell among thieves. They stripped him of his clothes, wounded him and left him for dead.
A priest came by and saw the man in the ditch. He looked at the man and just passed right on by him. A Levite came along and saw the poor beaten man and did the same thing the priest did!
Finally, a dirty Samaritan came by where the wounded man was. The stranger had compassion on him. He went to him and took care of his wounds – and it did not stop there! The Samaritan took him to an inn and took care of him through the night! The next day, he left money to be used to take care of the man.
The lawyer then understood the neighbor was the Samaritan who helped the man.
Friend, when God says for us to love our neighbor, our neighbor is not necessarily the one who lives right next door to us. Our neighbor is someone we have been taught to hate or have grown to despise. Jesus says the second greatest commandment is to love your neighbor as you love yourself (Matthew 22:39)!