Do you remember how the Pharisees tested Jesus by asking Him which was the greatest commandment in the law? You know, the one where He passed the test with this reply: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself’” (Matt. 22:37-39 NIV).
As I’ve been meditating on these verses, I realize Jesus spent much of His ministry showing us who our neighbors are and showing us and how to love them.
In Jesus’ time on earth, people believed illnesses occurred because of sin, either the person’s or his parents. Still, Jesus healed people from all kinds of maladies. Many were blind, crippled, deaf, or paralyzed. Some were even untouchable lepers. Yet He healed them; He had compassion for them all. Even though they were sick and unclean, Jesus loved His neighbors.
He taught about the good Samaritan, the man who stopped to help another who’d been robbed and beaten. Other Jewish men had chosen to ignore him and walk on the other side of the road, but the foreigner, the Samaritan, stopped to help. Even though the Jews hated him, the Samaritan loved his neighbor.
When with his disciples, Jesus walked through Samaria rather than skirting around it as others did, for they wanted nothing to do with the detested Samarian people. In Samaria, Jesus stopped to talk with the woman at the well, a Samaritan who had had five husbands and currently lived with a man she hadn’t married.
Jesus looked past a hated Samaritan living in sin and saw a woman who needed a Savior. Jesus loved His neighbor.
He talked Zacchaeus, a cheating, hated tax collector, out of that tree. He went into his home, ate with him, and talked with him. No respectful man would even have even thought of doing this, but Jesus loved the cheater.
Jesus even had a despised tax collector as one of his 12 apostles and Mary Magdalen, a former prostitute, as part of his larger group of followers.
The Pharisees criticized him for eating and drinking with sinners. They didn’t look below the surface, didn’t take a deeper look. They didn’t see individual people. They saw groups of people: impure Samaritans, sin-filled diseased people, cheating tax collectors, and immoral women, nothing more.
But Jesus took a deeper look. He looked with holy eyes, deep into their souls. He saw unique individuals created in His Father’s image. He saw beloved neighbors, and He loved them, with words and deeds.
I have always viewed myself as caring and compassionate toward others. But when I look again at the scriptures, when I look again at His loving actions, I hang my head in shame.
Yes, there have been times I have stereotyped people rather than seeing individuals created and loved by God. I have seen and judged their sin, not the beloved neighbor. And I realize I’ve sinned.
I ask for forgiveness. I seek His wisdom so I can view others through Jesus’ eyes. I long to learn how to love them.
What about you? Are you ready to take a deeper look?