It’s not chewing with his mouth open. It’s not leaving all the lights on in the house.

Jesus just doesn’t seem to get it. He has this habit that nobody seems to want to talk about. Sure, we’ll sing all the songs, we’ll say all the right words, we’ll pray over dinner, but we often don’t want to point out this thing Jesus does ALL THE TIME.

Jesus has this bad habit of loving the wrong people.

Jesus hangs out with the wrong people, he declares the guilty forgiven, and even desires the best for his enemies.

You know how that turned out? Got him killed.

Just sayin’.

Jesus often spoke of & placed a lot of weight on ‘loving our neighbor as ourselves.’

If you’re fine with thinking & living like Jesus, here’s 3 ways he really just didn’t seem to understand the definition of the word “neighbor:”

Jesus defines the Outsider as Neighbor

Jesus’ life teaches us that “compassion is love in action.”

Jesus loved the people who were on the outside of who was supposed to be ‘in.’ Jesus’ love stretches all the way to the margins of society.

When a religious leader asked Jesus ‘who is my neighbor,’ Jesus replied with a story about a person who took compassion on an injured man, sacrificing his time & resources to help remove the injured man’s suffering.

The kicker is Jesus made the hero of the story a Samaritan, a people group hated by the very religious leader he was speaking to!

So not only was Jesus telling this religious leader that he needs to show mercy & love to all people, Jesus specifically centered the story of an outsider.

The type of story Jesus himself thought was best to showcase the character & competency of a faithful disciple was one that centers those who are normally marginalized.

Jesus brings those who are far off in close. He doesn’t just ‘sympathize’ or pray for the outsider, he actively takes steps to help remove them from their outsider status, showcasing them as loved members of the family of God.

When’s the last time you rejected someone because of some characteristic you deemed to place them outside the reach of God?

In the context of this story, that’s the last time you acted like a Pharisee.

When’s the last time you centered someone in your community that has been rejected?

In the context of this story, that’s the last time you acted like Jesus.

Jesus defines the Accused as Neighbor

Jesus loves those who we would deem guilty.

Ever heard the story of the woman caught in adultery? She was brought before Jesus by religious leaders (the people who seemed to butt heads with Jesus the most over the definition of “neighbor”), defined her as guilty, & asked if they should stone her – as was the punishment for those in her shoes.

You know what Jesus did? He challenged them see themselves in this ‘guilty’ woman by saying, “the one who has never sinned among you throw the first stone.”

We need to realize we are all guilty of betraying the love that loves everyone.

Every time we fail to put love in action, we reject God’s command. Every time we can’t see ourselves in a ‘guilty’ person, we fail to see what Jesus sees. We have all been unfaithful.

And we are all unconditionally, relentlessly loved.

Jesus defines Enemies as Neighbors

This is the hardest one when we are real about it. When we really are honest about who we see as our enemies.

It’s easy to say, ‘oh, my enemy is that hypothetical person who would rob my house or physically harm me or my loved ones.’ Of course, it would be hard to love this person; and of course, Jesus wants us to love this person.

But so often for us, the people that we actually treat as our enemies in day to day life are the ones who seemingly butt up against our ethical, moral, & theological beliefs.

“Do you see what he posts on Facebook? Why does he even come on Sunday mornings?”

“Did you see what book she was reading? There’s no way she’s coming to our small group.”

“Did you notice who their family spent time with last weekend? My kids are never going around them.”

And of course, we all have the right to feel safe & valued. We shouldn’t subject ourselves to or enable abusive or harmful behaviors. Jesus corrected & challenged those who would harm others.

But on the flip side of that, Jesus loved his enemies so much that he would rather die than kill his enemies.

Where does this leave us?

How do we put love in action for the outsider, the accused, those who we so often treat as enemies?

Some of the things Jesus did was:

  • Center the story of the outsider
  • Challenge us to see ourselves in those who are guilty
  • Sacrifice in meaningful ways for enemies

We’re next. We’re up to bat.

The Holy Spirit was given to empower those who seek to faithfully follow the way of Jesus: the outsider-centering, guilty-forgiving, enemy-loving one who brings life to the full.

Who is your neighbor? How are you going to put love in action for them? How are you going to help remove the suffering of another?

It’s messy, and it’s not easy, but we’re all on this journey together.

Time to get moving.