Fr. Stavros N. Akrotirianakis is the Proistamenos of St. John Greek Orthodox Church in Tampa, FL. Fr. contributes the Prayer Team Ministry, a daily reflection, which began in February 2015, has produced two books, “Let All Creation Rejoice: Reflections on Advent, the Nativity and Epiphany” and “The Road Back to Christ: Reflections on Lent, Holy Week and the Resurrection.”
THE GREAT COMMANDMENTS: WHERE DO YOU STAND?
You shall 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 your neighbor as yourself. Luke 10:27
Jesus asked the man, “Which of these three, do you think proved neighbor to the man who fell among the robbers?” He said, “The one who showed mercy on him.” And Jesus said to him, “Go and do likewise.” Luke 10: 36-37
Good morning Prayer Team!
Most of us are familiar with the story of the Good Samaritan. In case you are not, please turn in the Bible to Luke 10: 25-37 and read it because it is a very poignant story regarding loving one’s neighbor. In the story, as we remember, a man was beaten and robbed and left by the road-side half-dead. Two people passed by, a priest and a Levite. The man at the side of the road was Jewish. The priest and Levite were mostly likely leaders of his temple. They should have been the first to run to render assistance to him. Rather they passed by and did nothing.
The man who stopped to render aid was a Samaritan, an enemy of that man. This man provided time, as he stayed with the wounded man the rest of that day and night. He provided a donkey to the man to ride on. He provided oil and wine, which were used medicinally for healing. Obviously the man had some idea on how to provide healing and relief for the wounded man. And then when he had to depart the next day on his journey, the Samaritan provided to the innkeeper the financial means to take care of the man.
The lesson of the story is that everyone is our neighbor. Even our enemy is our neighbor. The story began with a man questioning Jesus about what was necessary to gain eternal life. We don’t know what his motives were. Maybe they were genuine. Maybe he was truly concerned about his salvation. Or maybe he was a minimalist, or a legalist, looking for the minimum needed in order to attain eternal life. Christ instead gave him an answer that cannot be quantified. For to love one’s neighbor, when everyone is to be considered a neighbor, is a love that cannot be quantified, which is why loving our neighbors is so challenging. Because there are an infinite number of them, and the kind of love we are supposed to have is supposed to be infinite as well.
I have read the story of the Good Samaritan dozens of times in my life. And one thing I take away from the story that is new upon reading it today, is in verse 36, when Jesus asked the man who proved neighbor to the one who was robbed, the answer was not “The one who helped him,” but rather was “the one who showed mercy on him.” This makes the commandment to love our neighbor even more profound. Because mercy is something that is not deserved by our neighbor but is given anyway. So, in this case, we are to love all of our neighbors, even our enemies. And we are supposed to help our neighbor by showing mercy, by giving to the neighbor even what the neighbor may not deserve.
Loving Your Neighbor—On a scale of 1 to 10, how do you rank yourself on the following questions: Do I see all people as “my neighbor?” Do I make a point of acknowledging and helping even those with whom I am angry? Am I generous in showing mercy to others or do I always go after what I feel I’m owed? Do I treat my neighbor as I would like to be treated?
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Write down some ways that you can be a better neighbor. Start with being a more courteous driver. Offer a pleasant greeting to bank tellers, store clerks and others who serve us anonymously. Write down at least three more ways that you can love your “anonymous” neighbors.
Lord, thank You for loving me even in the times I do not deserve it. Thank You for being merciful and patient with me, even when I do not deserve it. Help me to love my neighbor by being merciful and patient with all whom I meet. When there is an opportunity to render assistance to my neighbor, fill my heart with not only love, but confidence and courage to step forward and help. Extend Your mercies especially on those who have no one to love them. Amen.
God is a God of mercy. May we follow His example and be merciful to one another.
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