The September/October 2020 Issue Is Online
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The complete September/October 2020 issue of Influence magazine is now available online. In the cover story of this issue of Influence, Don Everts talks about neighboring for the common good. Linda Seiler uses her personal testimony to share how Christians should think about the controversial issues of sexual orientation and gender identity. Jamé Bolds offers advice about how to pastor in an age of unemployment. And Eric Kniffin analyzes four recent Supreme Court cases that affect religious liberty.
I hope you find these articles — and the other content in this issue — both informative and inspiring!
What follows is my "From the Editor" column introducing the issue.
A Singular Command
Who is my neighbor?
Two millennia ago, a lawyer asked Jesus this question. His motives were not pure. He began by asking Jesus a different question to test Him. Then he asked Jesus this question to justify himself.
In response, Jesus told what we now call the Parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25–37).
Jews in Jesus’ day regarded Samaritans as half-breeds and heretics. After the destruction of Jerusalem in 586 B.C., the Babylonians exiled Judean leadership to Mesopotamia and settled a Mesopotamian people group in the ancestral lands of Ephraim and Manasseh. Over the next few centuries, that people group intermarried with the locals and began to practice an idiosyncratic form of Judaism, based solely on the Pentateuch and centered around a temple in Samaria, but also incorporating some pagan elements.
No love was lost between Jews and Samaritans. Each viewed the other as, to borrow a phrase from anthropologist Lisa Harding, a repugnant cultural other.
Jesus no doubt wanted to puncture the lawyer’s self-righteousness. Perhaps Jesus also wanted to force him to reckon more deeply with the Law in which the lawyer was supposedly an expert.
Those of us who follow Jesus know the other side — however “foreign” they and their beliefs and practices are to us — are still neighbors to be loved.
Remember the lawyer’s first question: “What must I do to inherit eternal life?” Knowing the lawyer was attempting to test Him, Jesus asked him how he would answer the question. The lawyer pointed to two Scriptures: “Love the Lord your God” (Deuteronomy 6:5) and “Love your neighbor” (Leviticus 19:18). This seems to have been a common Jewish summary of Scripture’s moral teaching, one Jesus himself advocated (Matthew 22:34–40; Mark 12:28–31).
In Hebrew, Deuteronomy 6:5 and Leviticus 19:18 are linked by the term ve-ahavta, “And you shall love.” Interestingly, that particular verbal form appears only once more in the Hebrew Bible, in Leviticus 19:34: “The foreigner residing among you must be treated as your native-born. Love [ve-ahavta] them as yourself, for you were foreigners in Egypt.”
Jewish hermeneutics in Jesus’ day included a principle called gezerah shavah. If an identical term appeared in two or more commandments, those commandments became mutually interpreting. According to Jesus, then, Scripture taught that love of God, neighbor, and foreigner constituted a singular command.
The irony in the Parable of the Good Samaritan is the Jewish characters didn’t follow Leviticus 19:34, but the Samaritan — the foreigner — did. He acted like a neighbor.
This parable is obviously relevant today. Some speak of a “culture war” in contemporary America, in which soldiers stare across a divide and view the other side as repugnant cultural others to avoid, if not cancel.
Those of us who follow Jesus know the other side — however “foreign” they and their beliefs and practices are to us — are still neighbors to be loved. Love of God, neighbor, and foreigner is Scripture’s Great Commandment.
As Jesus said, therefore, “Go and do likewise.”