WHEN THE Pharisees heard that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees with his reply, they thought up a fresh question of their own. One of them, a teacher of the law, tried to trap him with this question: “Teacher, which is the most important commandment in the law of Moses?”
JESUS answered, “You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul and with all your mind.” This is the first and greatest commandment of them all. The second most important commandment is like this: “Love your neighbour as you love yourself”. This is the law and the prophets. All the laws of Moses and the teachings of the prophets are based on these two commandments. Matthew 22: 34-41.
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25 On another occasion a teacher of the law stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to receive eternal life?”
26 “What is written in the Law?” Jesus replied. “How do you read it?”
27 He answered, “‘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, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’
28 “You have answered correctly,” Jesus replied. “Do this and you will live.”
29 But he wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbour?”
30 In reply Jesus told a story: “There was once a man who was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he was attacked by robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him up and went away, leaving him half dead. 31 A short while later, a priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side and did not help him. 32 In the same way, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw the man, passed by on the other side and he also did not help him. 33 But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. 34 He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his donkey, brought him to an inn and took care of him. 35 The next day he took out two denarii 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 incurred.’
36 “Which of these three do you think was a neighbour to the man who fell into the hands of the robbers?” Jesus asked.
37 The teacher of the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him.”
Jesus told him, “ You are right. Go and do the same.”
You can read the parable of the good Samaritan in Luke 10: 25-37.
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The man who was attacked by the robbers happened to be a Jew and the priest and the Levite were also Jews. The Jews and the Samaritans, although they share Abraham, Isaac and Jacob as their common ancestors, did not get along so well for reasons that we will learn in another lecture. But it was the Samaritan who had mercy on the injured man. At the time of Jesus, Samaria, the land of the Samaritans, lay between the Roman provinces of Judea and Galilee, which were Jewish states.
Good neighbourliness is virtually non-existent in today’s world. Our leaders are consistently teaching hatred, animosity and mistrust. The good Samaritan in Jesus’ parable, teaches us how to be good neighbours. It is true that crime is much more rampant today than it was at the time of Jesus. But, by the inclusion of robbers in the parable, Jesus shows that the situation was no different then as it is now. Good neighbourliness means that not only do you help others when they are in distress, but you also ensure that your actions do not harm your neighbours either deliberately or negligently. The Romans, during Jesus’ time spoke about the bonus paterfamilias as the personification of the standard of reasonableness with which everyone had to comply. The bonus paterfamilias was the fictitious good head of the family who ensured that, while he is part of the community and participates in most activities within the community, including commercial activities, his actions do not cause any harm to others. This was the standard that the Romans used to test whether a person acted negligently or not, by putting the bonus paterfamilias in the shoes of the person who has caused harm to another and then determining how the bonus paterfamilias would have acted had he been in the same situation as the person whose conduct is being judged. If his conduct falls short of that of the bonus paterfamilias, then he is guilty of negligence and is liable to compensate the victim by putting him in the same position that he was prior to negligent conduct . This is the standard that is still being used today, in courts all over the world, and in public life to decide on the issue of negligence.
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Can China and the United States be good neighbours? Or Turkey and Greece and all of the Middle East countries? Are they capable of laying down their arms? Do we advance more through hostilities and violence than through peace and dialogue?