But he wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”
The man who asked this question wanted to inherit eternal life by obeying God’s law. Jesus had just told him that he needed to love his God and his neighbor perfectly. The man knew he would not be able to do that no matter how hard he tried.
But because he wanted to claim he had obeyed all of God’s laws, he asked the question, “And who is my neighbor?” This was an attempt to lower God’s standard and make the law doable. In his mind earning his way into heaven depended on who his neighbor was. He wanted to divide people into neighbors and non-neighbors—those who deserved his love and those who did not.
All of us are born into this world thinking the same thing—that the way to inherit eternal life is through obedience. Yet the only way we could ever do that is by lowering God’s standard for perfection into something more attainable.
However, living like that does not help you earn heaven; it just helps you justify ignoring people God wants you to help. And while it’s logical to think that limiting how many neighbors you have will allow you to keep God’s command, it is not biblical.
According to the Bible, your neighbors are more than just the people who live next to you; they are everyone God puts across your path. There are no restrictions on who your neighbor is.
Christ came to destroy the sinful mindset that focuses on some neighbors to the exclusion of others. He perfectly loved his neighbor when he laid down his life for everyone who has ever lived, is living, or will live. Your eternal life is guaranteed by Jesus.
As a result, there is no need to lower God’s standard. Your neighbor is not an opportunity to earn heaven but an opportunity to love the people Christ already died for. When you focus on that, it transforms you into a neighbor to everyone else.
Lord Jesus, thank you for earning eternal life for me. Help me to love you by loving my neighbor. Amen.