Good News: we don’t have to justify ourselves

Good News

The parable of the Good Samaritan is one of the most well-known in the Gospels.

It starts with a lawyer asking Jesus what he must do to inherit eternal life. Then – in order to justify himself – the lawyer asks Jesus to define ‘neighbor’. And the story begins…

I always think of this lawyer as a good person. Although the Scripture says he is ‘testing’ Jesus, I think he’s trying to get closer. He’s living according to the law. He’s doing all the things a good person should. He wants to know eternal life.

And yet, even he has his limits. ‘Who is my neighbor?’ Is it them – the people who have the opposite political beliefs from me? Is it them – the ones who’ve committed terrible crimes? Is it them – the ones who’ve caused pain to me or the ones I love?

Jesus says YES. We don’t have to condone others’ actions and we don’t have to stop holding others’ accountable for the things they do and we can keep our distance if we want to … but we’re not exempted from showing them mercy.

What the lawyer doesn’t really get is this: he doesn’t have to justify himself. We don’t, either. Not one of us has to prove we’re worthy of love.

The hardest – and the simplest – thing Jesus ever asks us is to love those who we don’t think deserve it.

Jesus died and rose again for us all, no exceptions. We’re all fully loved, we’re all forgiven and redeemed, we’re all promised eternal life.

Even them.

That’s Good News.


Luke 10:25-37

Just then a lawyer stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he said, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?” He said to him, “What is written in the law? What do you read there?” He answered, “You shall 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 your neighbor as yourself.” And he said to him, “You have given the right answer; do this, and you will live.”

But wanting to justify himself, he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” Jesus replied, “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell into the hands of robbers, who stripped him, beat him, and went away, leaving him half dead. Now by chance a priest was going down that road; and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan while traveling came near him; and when he saw him, he was moved with pity. He went to him and bandaged his wounds, having poured oil and wine on them. Then he put him on his own animal, brought him to an inn, and took care of him. The next day he took out two denarii, gave them to the innkeeper, and said, `Take care of him; and when I come back, I will repay you whatever more you spend.’ Which of these three, do you think, was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of the robbers?” He said, “The one who showed him mercy.” Jesus said to him, “Go and do likewise.”

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