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"And, behold, a certain lawyer stood up, and tempted him, saying, Master, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?" Luke 10:25 (Read Luke 10:25-37)

Responding to this question from a man who sought to be justified by his own works, Jesus directed him to God's law. We are to love God with all our being and to love our neighbors as much as we love ourselves (Deut. 6:5; Lev. 19:18).

The Jewish lawyer was testing Jesus with the question: "What shall I do to inherit eternal life?"

When Jesus asked him, "What is written in the law? how readest thou?" he answered, "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 neighbour as thyself."

Jesus responded: "Thou hast answered right: this do, and thou shalt live."

And, indeed "the law is holy, and the commandment holy, and just, and good" (Rom. 7:12). The problem is as Paul describes in Romans 7:10-11: "the commandment, which was ordained to life, I found to be unto death. For sin, taking occasion by the commandment, deceived me, and by it slew me." And, in Galatians 3:21, he writes: "Is the law then against the promises of God? God forbid: for if there had been a law given which could have given life, verily righteousness should have been by the law."

Therefore, if a person were able to love God and neighbor perfectly in his thoughts, desires, words and deeds, he could earn his way into heaven. The problem is: Who can?

This lawyer, wishing to justify himself but, perhaps, now a little troubled over his own love for his neighbor, questioned just how far this command extended with the question: "And who is my neighbour?"

And with the parable of the Good Samaritan, Jesus teaches us that our neighbor is not only the person next door, our friends, or even those whom we might consider worthy of our love and respect. Our neighbor includes anyone and everyone with whom we in some way have contact or the ability to help and serve. Our neighbor includes all people.

Like the good Samaritan, we should care for the stranger in need, even if he is our enemy. Cf. Matt. 5:43-48. We should not be as the priest and the Levite in this parable who, probably out of fear for their own safety, passed by the man who had fallen among thieves and was in need of help. They failed to love their neighbor. But the Samaritan risked his own safety and gave of himself even more than most would expect in order to help.

And, if we truly love our neighbor as we love ourselves, we will use every opportunity and do all that we can to help those in need.

But back to the question of what we must do to inherit eternal life, who has such love for God and his neighbor?

The Bible points out the problem: "All have sinned, and come short of the glory of God" (Rom. 3:23), and "there is not a just man upon earth, that doeth good, and sinneth not" (Eccl. 7:20). No one has such perfect love for God! And while men may think they love their neighbor, this parable reveals our utter failures here, as well!

Yet, for those who have come short of the demands of God's perfect Law, there is another way to be justified and acceptable to God, and that is through faith in Jesus Christ who had perfect love for God and neighbor and then took our sins (even the sins of the entire word) upon Himself and suffered our punishment. Cf. Romans 5:6-8.

All who look to Jesus and His cross in faith are "justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus" (Rom. 3:24; cf. v. 21-26; 10:4; John 3:14-18).

We cannot justify ourselves with God's commandments as this Jewish lawyer sought to do; but through faith in Christ Jesus who died for our sins and rose again, we stand forgiven and justified in God's sight (Rom. 3:28; Eph. 1:6-7). And then, as a fruit of our faith, we seek to love our Lord and Savior above all things and to love our neighbor as we love ourselves (1 John 4:9-11, 19.).

"Oh, teach me, Lord, to love Thee truly with soul and body, head and heart, and grant me grace that I may duly practice fore'er love's sacred art. Grant that my every thought may be directed e'er to Thee. Amen." (The Lutheran Hymnal, Hymn #399, Verse 5)

[Devotion by Randy Moll. Scripture quotations are from the King James Version of the Bible.]

Religion on 09/18/2019

Print Headline: Do you love your neighbor enough to please God?

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