A lawyer asked Jesus what must he do to inherit eternal life? Because he was a legal man, Jesus asked him what did the Law say? The lawyer quoted the teaching from the books of Exodus 20 and Leviticus 19:18, which says, to love God with all one's heart, soul and strength, and mind and love one's neighbour as oneself. Jesus praised the lawyer for his knowledge. He told the lawyer: 'Do this and life is yours' v.28. The lawyer had no problem to quote the Law, but was unclear about the concept of who is his neighbour. He asked Jesus for clarification. Jesus told him about the story of the Samaritan. It was about a man who was injured by robbers. They left him half death on a road side. A priest and a Levi saw the victim, but refused to get involve. This point tells us that having knowledge of the law is good, but what really counts is applying it to save a life. A businessman, who did not have as much knowledge about the Law as the priest and Levi had, but he saved the victim. He dismounted his horse, and came to his aid. At the end of the story, Jesus asked the lawyer who was a neighbour to the victim? The lawyer replied, the one who helped the victim. Jesus told him, 'Go, and do the same yourself' v.37. Jesus told the lawyer, and us, to learn from the businessman.
The lawyer was right to believe that eternal life is a special gift, which is beyond one's ability to earn. In order to inherit eternal life, one must love God and love one's neighbour. He had no difficulty to understand the requirement of loving God, but had trouble defining the concept of neighbour. Loving one's neighbour requires us to love as though loving your other self. Who is my other self? This is what troubled the lawyer? Having a good neighbour is a blessing because that neighbour looks after things when we are home, and when we are away. Probably most complains in life come from unkind neighbours. The housing density causes even more complains, things like noise and stench, and overgrown vines and hanging branches in one's backyard. Over crowded parking along a roadside is another problem. These problems happen within our neighbourhood. Our common concept of neighbour would be someone who we know, who lives or works near us, and we have some knowledge of that person. Our neighbour is someone who we can chat with over the fence, or who lives opposite our house, or families on our street.
The story of the Good Samaritan broadens up the concept of neighbour. It is extended to everyone, regardless of their cultural background, religious belief or race. The story of the Good Samaritan tells us that our neighbour is a stranger. That other self is outside, not part of us; that other self is unknown to us, and yet that other self is what we need to care for, to look after as if we take care of our own self. The story of the Good Samaritan is the story of love without borders. Love is the key that leads to eternal life. The story seems to define that everyone, who is desperately in need of support and care for is our neighbour.
In helping the victim, the businessman put himself in a risky situation. He didn't know whether the bandits had gone or they were hiding nearby waiting to prey on the next victim. The businessman, regardless of his own risk, helped the victim. He put his business trip on hold, and saw the needs of the injured man as his first priority. He trusted the innkeeper would not cheat him. He took care of the victim's immediate needs and also cared for his convalescence. He expected no favour return from the injured man. He helped the victim as though helping himself.