"'Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?' The expert in the law replied, 'The one who had mercy on him.' Jesus told him, 'Go and do likewise.'"--Luke 10:36-37
The parable of the Good Samaritan is one of Jesus' best known stories. A man walking the long, downhill road from Jerusalem to Jericho is attacked by bandits and left for dead. Both a priest and a Levite passed up the opportunity to help out the man.
But have you ever asked why?
Some Bible commentators suggest that Jesus may have wanted to point out hypocrisy in the situation. If the man had been dead and the religious leaders touched him they would be ceremonially unclean and restricted from going to the Temple to worship. Maybe Jesus was pointing out the hypocrisy of refusing to help someone in need in order to have the privilege of worshiping at the Temple.
But here's what we know for sure: Samaritans and Jews sort of hated each others. A devout Jew would not even venture into Samaria when traveling South from Galilee to Judea. Jewish orthodoxy in Jesus' day forbade Jews from associating with Samaritans. Knowing this, the parable of the Good Samaritan takes on an even deeper meaning. Jesus was highlighting what it looked like to love the (seemingly) unlovable.
Jesus said the greatest commandment was, in short, to love God and love people. Worshiping God and ministering to the needs of people go hand in hand. Jesus wants His followers to have a great relationship with God, but He wants that to be played out in our day-to-day life by loving our "neighbors," especially those who may seem to be the hardest for us to love.
As youth workers, the most common neighbor we encounter is probably between the ages of 12 and 18! And the ones who are the hardest to love are often the ones who need our love the most. As you go about the practice of "doing ministry," don't ever forget that one of the primary means of ministering to students is dealing with their hurts and meeting their needs--emotional and spiritual.