Which of these three, do you think, was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of the robbers?” He said, “The one who showed him mercy.” Jesus said to him, “Go and do likewise.” (Luke 10:36-37, NIV)
John Wesley’s note on the last verse calls us to break down boundaries that keep us from loving those who are not like us.
Let us go and do likewise, regarding every man as our neighbour who needs our assistance. Let us renounce that bigotry and party zeal which would contract our hearts into an insensibility for all the human race, but a small number whose sentiments and practices are so much our own, that our love to them is but self love reflected. With an honest openness of mind let us always remember that kindred between man and man, and cultivate that happy instinct whereby, in the original constitution of our nature, God has strongly bound us to each other.
In Wesley’s sermon “On Love,” he defines the word “love” by expanding on the words of 1 Corinthians 13. I’m tempted to quote several paragraphs, but you can get the same thing by following the link. Let me, instead, just quote one of the several points to set up my further comments.
“Love suffereth long,” or is longsuffering. If thou love thy neighbour for God’s sake, thou wilt bear long with his infirmities: If he want wisdom, thou wilt pity and not despise him: If he be in error, thou wilt mildly endeavour to recover him, without any sharpness or reproach: If he be overtaken in a fault, thou wilt labour to restore him in the spirit of meekness: And if, haply, that cannot be done soon, thou wilt have patience with him; if God, peradventure, may bring him, at length to the knowledge and love of the truth. In all provocations, either from the weakness or malice of men, thou wilt show thyself a pattern of gentleness and meekness; and, be they ever so often repeated, wilt not be overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good. Let no man deceive you with vain words: He who is not thus long-suffering, hath not love.
Reading Wesley’s sermon, I am reminded that I fall short of his description of love, and not only on the paragraph quoted above. I have failed to be be mild in my exchanges with those who appear to me to be in error. I have failed to rejoice at the happiness of others. I have failed by using sharp and unkind words. I have failed by condemning others without first speaking to them face-to-face.
And I have failed — referring back to Wesley’s note on Luke 10:37 — to reach outside the narrow bounds of my own comfort to love my neighbors.
I am reminded reading Wesley’s sermon and this famous parable from Luke that I am the one in the ditch, beaten by my own pride, arrogance, and self-love.