We must not let Jesus’ parable be trapped in its first century context. God consistently puts people in our path, in less dire circumstances, to do good to them, to love them as God has loved us. Like our subjection to the governing authorities, we do good not out of a fear of wrath but out of love for God and our neighbor. For, God is love, and in his love “he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16).
Jesus summarized the Decalogue simply: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. And…You shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Matt. 22:37-39). It is a brilliant, comprehensive yet succinct understanding of God’s Moral Law. It is also clear in its inclusion: God, my neighbor, and me. Of course, only the fool questions who God is (Ps. 14:1), and I know who I am, but who is my neighbor? Is my neighbor my friend but not my enemy? Is my neighbor my social or political tribe but not yours? Is my neighbor those I like but not those I dislike or those who dislike me? Who is my neighbor?