LOVE OF THE NEIGHBOR.
30In reply Jesus said: “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he fell into the hands of robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead. 31A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. 32So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. 33But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. 34He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, took him to an inn and took care of him. 35The next day he took out two silver coins[e] and gave them to the innkeeper. ‘Look after him,’ he said, ‘and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.’ 36″Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?” 37The expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him.” Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.”(LUKE x, 30-37.)
The love of the neighbor consists in being well-disposed towards all men, As we are taught that there are two great commandments, love to the Lord, and love to the neighbor. it is important to understand who the neighbor is, and what constitutes charity, or love to the neighbor. And the parable illustrates this subject, by practical example.
THE LITERAL STORY.
“A certain lawyer stood up, and tempted [or tested] Him, saying, Master, what shall I do to inherit eternal life? He [Jesus] said unto him, What is written in the law? How readest thou?” [For these lawyers of the Scriptures were ecclesiastical lawyers, or teachers of the Mosaic law.] ” And he, answering, said, Thou shalt love the Lord, thy God, with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy strength, and with all thy mind ; and thy neighbor as thyself: And He said unto him, Thou hast answered right; this do, and thou shalt live. But he, willing to justify himself said unto Jesus, And who is my neighbor?” Then Jesus answered him, by giving the parable,
THE LAWYER’S QUESTION.
This lawyer’s question has considerable force, when we remember the condition of Jerusalem, in that day. The city was under the dominion of the Roman conquerors. And its streets were filled with a motley group, gathered from all quarters of the globe. And it was a serious question, to this Jewish lawyer, as to who had a right to claim from him the duties of a neighbor. His own friends, his own class, and, possibly, by a great stretch of thought, his own nation, might claim from him neighborly love and conduct. But, he could scarcely imagine that he could be expected to feel, or to act, as a neighbor to the whole horde of uncircumcised infidels, barbarians, and national enemies whose presence profaned the streets of the holy city. And, more than all, there was a class to whom he felt a peculiarly strong aversion, the hated Samaritans, who were an abomination to the Jews. Surely, he thought, no one could ask him to feel anything but hatred to an accursed Samaritan.
For the Samaritans were aliens, who had been placed in the land, after the Israelitish inhabitants had been carried away, as captives. “The king of Assyria brought men from Babylon, and from Cuthah, and from Ava, and from Hamath, and from Sepharvaim, and placed them in the cities of Samaria, instead of the children of Israel: and they posessed Samaria, and dwelt in the cities thereof.” And these hated aliens even established a temple on Mount Gerizim, as a rival to the Jewish temple in Jerusalem.
LIMITING THE LAW.
No wonder that this lawyer, or doctor of the ecclesiastical law, (probably a Levite,) was willing to justify himself in his hatred of accursed aliens and enemies, and so desired to limit the idea of neighbor to his own people, and, if possible, to his own class. When he asked the first question, “What shall I do to inherit eternal life?” the Lord referred him back to the Divine law, of which he was a teacher. But he then desired to limit the operation of the law. But the Lord, in the parable, expanded the application of the law, to cover the whole human race, and even showed the heavenly qualities of the despised Samaritan,
JERUSALEM TO JERICHO.
“A certain man went down from Jerusalem to Jericho,” a journey of about eighteen miles, through the worst, and most rugged, and most dangerous, road in Palestine; so dangerous, so infested by robbers, that a part of it was called “The Bloody Way.'” Many priests and Levites lived at Jericho, and went back and forth to Jerusalem, to take their turns in ministering in the temple-service. The poor man, in the parable, fell among thieves, or robbers, who stripped him of his clothing, beat him, wounded him, and left him half dead.
THE PRIEST AND THE LEVITE.
In the common translation, it is said “by chance” a priest came along. But, properly, it is “by a coincidence.” In fact, there is not, in the New Testament, any word meaning chance, luck, fate, or arbitrary fortune.
As the man was lying in his blood, a priest came along the road. And it would seem, that now, the poor sufferer would find help, from one of his own priests, probably going up to officiate in the temple, or just returning from the temple. But, when the priest saw the poor man, “he passed by on the other side” of the road, and left the suffering brother to his fate. “And likewise a Levite, [one of the priestly class,] when he was at the place, came and looked on him, and passed by on the other side.” Both have gone by without a word of pity, or an act of love. An ordinary dog would have stopped, to lick the wounds of the sufferer, as the dogs licked the sores of poor Lazarus; But, here, the professional teachers of the Divine Law express no sympathy, and make no attempt to apply the mercy which they teach.
The last hope of the dying man seems to have fled; for, if his own holy priest would not help him, where can he turn, for aid? But, a despised Samaritan comes along the road. From him, of course, the bleeding Jew can expect nothing but abuse; for, as the woman of Samaria said to Jesus, at the well of Sychar, “the Jews have no dealings with the Samaritans.” The Samaritan knew, of course, how this wounded Jew regarded the Samaritans, and that he could not expect any mercy from the Jew, if their positions were reversed.
But the Samaritan loved the Lord ; and this love made him feel that, in their hour of need, all men were his neighbors. And so “he had compassion ; and went to him, and bound up his wounds, pouring in oil and wine;” thus using, for the haughty Jew’s medicine, what the Samaritan had carried for his own food, on his journey. And then he took the wounded man, and set him on his own beast, (the Samaritan’s mule, or ass,) and brought him to an inn, and took care of him. And, even then, he did not feel his duty to be at an end; but, “on the morrow, when he departed, he took two pence [i. e., two days’ wages for a laborer,] and gave them to the host, [or landlord,] and said unto him Take care of him, and whatsoever thou spendest more, when I come again, I will repay thee.”
Now, what this Samaritan did for the wounded Jew, was no light matter, He gave the Jew his food, his money, and his care. He put the Jew upon his beast, and walked, himself, while he held the half-dead Jew in his place. And, by the delay, on this dangerous road, he increased the risk of being, himself, overtaken and killed by robbers.
After the parable, Jesus asked the lawyer, “Which, now, of these three, thinkest thou, was neighbor unto him that fell among the thieves? And he said, He that showed mercy on him. Then said Jesus unto him, Go, and do thou likewise.” The whole matter is thus placed in practical form, Our neighbor is the man who needs the love and the help that we can give him,
Notice the difference between the lawyer’s question, and the Lord’s answer, The lawyer asked, “Who is my neighbor?” i. e., Who is entitled to claim my neighborly love and service? But the Lord’s answer was rather a reply to the question, “To whom am I to be a neighbor ?” And the parable showed that neighborly love depends upon our own states of affection towards others; and that we should always be in such condition of love towards all men, that their needs will call forth our love, and our wise and efficient aid.
In the light of the New-Church, we see that charity, or love to the neighbor, is in the inward man, in our will: and that it consists in being well-disposed, in heart, towards all men. There is a broad sense in which every man is our neighbor, for every man is a child of God, and capable of being led back to the Lord, Every man has needs, and these needs must appeal to our judicious sympathy, Every man has the capacity to become an angel. And we are to love that capacity, in every man: and to help him to develop that capacity, and to form a heavenly character. Abstractly, the principle of good is the neighbor whom we are to love. And every man is truly a neighbor to others, according to the quality and quantity of the good that is in him, from the Lord ; i. e., according to his ruling-love. And the nearness of our fellow-men to our hearts, depends upon the nearness of our hearts to the Lord. We will pour out to others the same qualities which we allow the Lord to pour into us.
True neighborly love does not require us to hold any person above good principles. Neighborly love seeks to do good, and to restrain evil, in ourselves, and in others. We cannot do any man a greater injury, than to induce him to do evil, blinding him to a clear distinction between good and evil. Love of the neighbor is not called upon to do, for men, all that they, in their wrong states, desire us to do. Professional paupers, who “trade upon their sores, and even make sores, to trade upon,” are best helped by discipline, not by indulgence. We must do what we know to be good for others. Neighborly love looks to the good that is in men, or that is to be cultivated in them.
DEGREES OF NEIGHBOR.
And there are several degrees of neighbor: First, the Lord, who is Good, itself: Second, the Lord’s kingdom, in heaven and on earth. Third, the Church, in the aggregate. Fourth, one’s country. Fifth, one’s general society. Sixth, an individual. Good is to be done to these, in this order; for, what is truly for the good of the greater number, is for the good of individuals. We love good men, and have more dependence upon them, than upon weak characters. Neighborly love requires us to love the good which a man should do; and to love him because he does it. Or, if he does not do it, then we are to love his capacity to do good; and we are to help him to develop his capacity, and to allow the Lord to form him into a heaven.
For heaven is an inward condition. The kingdom of God is within you.” And, whatever a man is, we are still to do right towards him ; to do as we would be done unto; and not to despise him. Genuine neighborly love is like the Lord’s love; an He “is good to all.” “He maketh His sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust.” To love those, only, who treat us well, is the doctrine of the hells, not of the heavens. And we can not keep this truth too plainly before our thought. Love of the neighbor is a principle of life, and not merely a sentiment. It is a love of doing good to others; of giving what the Lord gives to us.
There are many persons, who, in outward sentimentality, keep their eyes piously raised to the clouds, while they fail to see their suffering fellow-men who lie about their pathway. We can truly love our neighbor only as we love our Lord. Jesus said, “Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these, My brethren, ye have done it unto Me.” The old tradition, corrupting the Scriptures, said, “Thou shalt love thy neighbor, and hate thine enemy ;” but the Lord said, “I say unto you, Love your enemies.” Thus the name of neighbor covers the whole human race. A good neighbor is one who, from love, and without compulsion, is ready wisely to do any needed good.
There are evil men, who, in a thousand ways, fall upon a man, and take away his goods, physically and mentally. These are robbers, swindlers, sneaks, who prey upon the community. And our sympathy ought to go out to their .innocent victims, and also to themselves, but in a very different method of expression. We are to avoid two extremes, a contempt of others, on the one hand, and a mistaken sympathy, which confuses evil and good, on the other hand.
THE INWARD MEANING.
If we are to help men out of their physical troubles, certainly we are to be even more efficient in helping them out of spiritual troubles. In its literal sense, the parable displays the outward acts of charity; and in its inward sense, it portrays the spiritual principle of charity. A natural love is a love of the person, but a spiritual love is a love of the good that is in the person, or that may be in him. Charity does not do as little as possible, but as much as possible, according to its ability.
JERUSALEM AND JERICHO.
Jerusalem, where the temple was placed, for national worship, and for instruction, represents the Church, as to worship, and as to doctrine. A man is spiritually in Jerusalem, when he is in the knowledge of truth and doctrine, from which he seeks to worship the Lord.
Jericho was near the boundary of Canaan; and thus it represents the externals of the Church, and of life, the boundary of the Church, or that which introduces to the Church. Thus, Jericho represents good and truth, and instruction, in their external and practical phases. Jericho was called “the city of palms.” And palm-trees represent our good, growing fruit-bearing affections. And so, for a man to go down from Jerusalem to Jericho, represents a going out from spiritual instruction, into the practical things of life, in which good is to be found by practice.
And the road from Jerusalem to Jericho; i. e., from principle to practice, is beset with many dangers. There are many robbers on the way. Spiritual thieves are all who take away a man’s spiritual riches, and injure his spiritual life; all whose influence upon us is bad, including not only intentionally evil persons, but also our injudicious friends, whose careless influence encourages our evils and our self-indulgence, and tends to confuse our clear distinctions between good and evil.
Evil spirits, too, are thieves, whose influence takes away our spiritual riches and life. They stir up our natural passions, and develop our unneighborly feelings, thoughts and conduct towards others. They steal away our raiment, the truths that clothe our affections. They beat us with false suggestions. They injure and wound our hearts with false reasonings. They leave us half-dead, by almost taking away our spiritual life. They injure our states of worship of the Lord.
Thus, even if we have been in Jerusalem, and have been instructed in the truths of the Church, and have had some feelings of worship of the Lord, we are in danger of losing these spiritual riches, as we travel the dangerous road of practical, daily life, towards the application of our instruction to the conduct of life.
PRIESTS AND LEVITES.
And, when we suffer from the assaults of evil influences, the priests and Levites, the evils and falses of a perverted Church, or of a perverted state of mind, cannot help us. For the priest, in a good sense, represented the Love of the Lord, and the Levite represented the love of the neighbor. But, in a bad sense, as in the text, the priest is the love of self, and the Levite is the love of the world, in the corrupted Church, or in the corrupt natural state of mind, These “pass by, on the other side;” they are opposed to all true charity; they do not care for the neighbor.
Perhaps the priest and the Levite thought they had no time to spare, to help the wounded man ; or that it was not their business. But, if we are in the love of performing uses, we shall love to do good, even to disagreeable persons.. We love the use, irrespective of the person. If their evils annoy us, we shall forget that trifling matter, in our earnest love, and in our desire to rescue them from bad spiritual company, and to heal their wounds.
The Samaritan found time to help the sufferer. And every man will find time to do, spiritually, what he loves to do, No man is put in any position where he cannot do right spiritually. He cannot always control his circumstances, but he can always control his own principles, in any circumstances. Those who are filled with love of the neighbor are desirous to save others from the infestations of spiritual robbers. They pour in the oil of heavenly love, and the wine of spiritual truth. They bind up the man’s wounds with practical good advice. They set the disabled sufferer on their own beasts; i. e., they set his mind upon the rational understanding of truth, on which they have ridden. They take him to the inn, the school of the Church, where spiritual food and drink are given to him ; where he is instructed in good and truth; where he will be safer from evil influences and in the care of the Lord and His angels.
The Samaritan, as a Gentile, represents the natural, simple love of good and truth, natural charity. The Samaritan did his good works, while he was journeying, and when he carne where the other man was; i. e., when he came into a state to see the needs of others.
And, “ on the morrow;” i. e., in a new state, brought about by the circumstances, he paid two pence, for the continued support of the sufferer, and also agreed to pay as much more as, should be needed, when he should come that way, again; i. e., he gave all that he could, of love and of wisdom, to save the sufferer from evils and falses : and he was disposed to do more, as his ability increased, and as the other man’s need demanded.
Thus, when a man finds himself infested by evil spirits, he cannot turn, for help, to the corrupt priest and Levite, the old evils and falses of corrupt life. But his safety will come through his Gentile state of simple love of good.
In the light of this beautiful parable, how significant it is that, on one occasion in the temple, the Jews, being angry at the plain teachings of Jesus, cried out to Him, “Say we not well, that Thou art a Samaritan, and hast a devil?” Truly, the good Samaritan of the parable showed the spirit of Jesus. Remember, too, that when, at one time, Jesus met ten lepers, and cleansed them, only one of them turned back: to glorify God; and he was a Samaritan.
Take an illustration of spiritual robbery. Here is a man who has been in Jerusalem, spiritually; i. e., who has been instructed in true doctrine, and has formed a habit of worshipping the Lord. But some friend gradually induces him to believe in a “Vicarious Atonement,” and he loses his belief in a good life from religious principles, as being salvation from sin. Or, perhaps, scientific infidelity takes hold of him, and leads him to reject all things that he cannot see proven to his external senses; and to rely upon sensuous appearances, rather than on spiritual openness to truth, and perception, of principles.
Now, spiritual robbers have stripped him of spiritual truths, beaten and wounded him with falsities, and left him half-dead, alive to external things only, and dead to all the higher, grander, holier things, that are open to the rational intelligence of the spiritual mind, Instead of seeing the grand verities of spiritual life, the poor wounded man is held down by sensuous things; and he imagines that all human affections and thoughts are but the temporary effects of changes in the relative positions and conditions of the molecules of the brain. Such men mistake the effect for the cause. Poor, blind leaders of the blind, both fall into the ditch, of sensuous falsities. They see nothing beyond the degree and plane of natural effects, and their mental eyes are closed to the whole grand world of spiritual causes.
THE LOVE OF SAVING.
But, even though such men be sorely wounded in spirit, and half-dead, yet those who love the Lord and the neighbor will feel a strong desire to save them from their dangerous condition, and to nurse them back to vigorous spiritual life. Even if others, being in bad spiritual company, exercise their evils upon us, we can ascribe the evil to the evil spirits in whose company they are; and we can try to lead them out of such company. Forgetting all petty personal aspects of the case, We can rise to a nobler principle of neighborly love and usefulness. Reading the parable, we can hear the Lord’s command, “Go, and do thou likewise,” even to those who despise and persecute us. The way to heaven lies through love, mercy and usefulness.
The whole spirit of this parable shows there is no “Vicarious Atonement.” Salvation is not by “Faith, alone,” but by love, faith, and obedience. Jesus referred the lawyer to the law, itself as the means of eternal life. And Jesus said, “Think not that I am come to destroy the law or the prophets; I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil.” And to fulfil does not mean that Jesus obeyed the law, to allow men to avoid keeping it, but that Jesus fulfilled the law, or filled the law full of life, to those who obey it. And so Jesus showed that men, themselves, must obey the law, in their daily life. “If thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments,” for these are the means of life.
WHO IS MY NEIGHBOR?
When the question arises, in a man’s mind, “Who is my neighbor?” it will be answered, within him, according to the state of his own heart. If he loves the Lord, and his fellowmen, the human race will be his neighbor. But, if he loves himself supremely, his idea of neighborly love will be narrowed down to the limits of his own heart.
Wherever the spirit of the hells crops out in self-exaltation, and contempt of others ; wherever there is the infernal spirit of caste, and of prejudice against color or condition; wherever there lurks the diabolical contempt against those who humbly labor for their living; wherever there is a narrow selfishness, that regards everything from its own stand-point, alone; there the hypocritical priest and Levite refuse to help their needy fellow-men ; and there is need of the love and the work of the good Samaritan. And happy is he, who, hanging up before his conscience the mirror of this searching parable, does not see his own face in the priest and the Levite. Happy is he, who not only in sentiment, but also in heart and in conduct, responds to the love that warmed the heart of the good Samaritan, and from his loving heart, flowed forth to all who stood in need of its service.
Take an illustration, A few years ago, on a memorable night, a well-filled steamer plied the waters of Long Island Sound. Suddenly, in the dead of night, the sleeping passengers were aroused by the startling cry of” fire!” Rapidly the passing wind fanned the devouring flames, and forced the human freight to seek immediate safety from the fire, in the only less remorseless waves.
Amid the frightful scene, a strong-hearted and strong-armed man swam here and there, gathering the drowning passengers upon floating timbers. The wild fire was rapidly devouring the doomed vessel, and the wild winds shrieking a dismal dirge; the dense shadows and the lurid glare alternating upon the frightful scene. Few could hope to escape the common fate.
The rescuing hero turned towards a sinking man to save him : when, from a gayly-dressed woman, clinging to a floating bench near by, came a voice of agony, and of piteous appeal, shrieking,” Oh! save me I save me! Don’t take him; he’s only a nigger.” And a great wave seized her, and carried her down, to death and to judgment. Her last words breathed the very spirit of the hells. And yet she was a woman, one of ” the gentler sex,” to whom we look for tender love and gentle sympathy,
And, perhaps, she was a member in good standing, in some Christian Church; a Church named after Him who is no respecter of persons; who was born into the world in a poor and humble family ; whose meek and lowly life was spent in ministering to all men, even the most lowly and despised; and who, in the parable before us, ascribes infernal vices to men of the ruling classes, and heavenly virtue to the despised Gentile.
Well, indeed, is it, for human nature, that a New-Church has arisen. to redeem Christianity from its perversions; to teach new truths; and to lead us all to a new quality of love and of life. Even to-day, we sadly need the loving rebuke of this beautiful parable. “Have we not all one Father ? Hath not one God created us? Why do we deal treacherously, every man against his brother?” ” All things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them ; for this is the law and the prophets.”
Author: Edward Craig Mitchell 1887