And who is my neighbor?

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In Luke 10:25-37, Jesus is faced with a question. He is asked, “What must I do to inherit eternal life?” Jesus answers with a question about the law, “What is written in the law?” The expert in the law answers with the 2 greatest commandments: Love God and Love your Neighbor. Jesus applauds tells him to go and do just that.

The expert, however, isn’t done yet. There’s a but. Verse 29 says, “But he wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, ‘And who is my neighbor?’” So Jesus tells him the story of the Good Samaritan. The Samaritan, who has no legal requirement to, helps the dying man on the road while the legal experts walk along on the other side of the road so as not to become unclean. Jesus tells him that the Samaritan acted as a neighbor, and to go be a neighbor to people like the Samaritan was.

I’m intrigued by the word justify in verse 29. One lexicon defines this use of the word justify as an “attempt to justify oneself is to find an excuse for not acting justly.” The expert was looking for a legal way of saying to someone, you aren’t my neighbor so I don’t have to show love to you. He was looking for a loophole.

On other occasions, Jesus is asked by others a question where his questioner appears to be seeking a legal definition.  People want to know what was the least they needed to do in order to be right in the eyes of the law, who was at fault for the supposed punishment afflicted on someone, or how many times must someone be forgiven. The questions like these seem to have been asked to determine legality and minimum requirements.

There have been comments made recently by members of our government about what is Biblical in regards to the law and backed that up by referring to Romans 13. I’m not a legal expert, but I am a student of the Bible and as a student of the Bible, I strongly believe something needs to be said in defense of the Bible.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions referenced Romans 13:1-7 recently saying that it’s Biblical to enforce the law. This view was repeated by Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders.  I want to challenge you to read the passage referred to (Romans 13:1-7) and then take it a step further and read the next few verses (Romans 13:8-10). 

I believe that the Attorney did exactly what the legal expert of Jesus’ day was looking to do. He found a way to justify the government’s policy of separating children from their parents. It’s the law and the Bible says to follow the law of the government. Only, the text was written to Roman Christians living under a corrupt Roman Empire. N. T. Wright explains this passage in his commentary Paul for Everyone, Romans Part 2:

“No good will come to the cause of the gospel by followers of Jesus being regarded as crazy dissidents who won’t co-operate with the most basic social mechanisms. Paul is anxious, precisely because he believes that Jesus is the true Lord of the world, that his followers should not pick unnecessary quarrels with the lesser lords. They are indeed a revolutionary community, but if they go for the normal type of violent revolution they will just be playing the empire back at its own game. They will almost certainly lose, and, much worse, the gospel itself will lose with them.”

Again, he writes that while the Government is corrupt:

The Christians are called to believe, though, that the civic authorities, great and small, are there because the one true God wants his world to be ordered, not chaotic. This does not validate particular actions of particular governments. It is merely to say that some government is always necessary, in a world where evil flourishes when unchecked.

Essentially, Paul is saying don’t stir up unnecessary trouble by being violent revolutionaries as others have done. That doesn’t help the Gospel. Instead, be good citizens and pay your taxes (which some believe taxes were in fact the reason he wrote this particular section). Not only that, but he continues by saying that they should leave no debt outstanding (again possibly referring to taxes) except the continuing debt to love.

So, we come down to a question. Should we do what is legal or what is loving? Often legal means meeting minimum requirements or finding loopholes and technicalities that allow you to justify your actions. Loving means going above and beyond to do not only was is legally required, but what we would hope others would do for us. I can’t argue about what is the law of the United States and which administration enacted it, but I do not know that it’s not loving to children to remove them from their families. Instead of treating them as human beings who have families and seeing the future potential in the children, the government has chosen to traumatize them and create unhealthy situations for them. No government should ever remove children to put them into a emotionally and psychologically harmful situation. Removing children from their families should only come as a means to protect children from harm.  

We should obey the law when it acts in accordance with God’s law, and we should love our neighbors at all times even if the law doesn’t require us to do so and we should communicate to our government and representatives that we want people treated lovingly, not just according the minimum requirements of the law. So if you made it this far, please stand up for love and keeping children with their families. Contact your representatives and senators and ask them to do what’s right and loving for these children.

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