And a lawyer stood up and put Him to the test, saying, “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” And He said to him, “What is written in the Law? How does it read to you?” And he answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself .”
And He said to him, “You have answered correctly; Do this and you will live.” But wishing to justify himself, he said to Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”
Jesus replied and said, “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell among robbers, and they stripped him and beat him, and went away leaving him half dead. And by chance a priest was going down on that road, and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. Likewise a Levite [of the Jewish priestly class] also, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan [an undesirable minority (like a Duke fan, or perhaps an ‘ambulance chaser’)], who was on a journey, came upon him; and when he saw him, he felt compassion, and came to him and bandaged up his wounds, pouring oil and wine on them; and he put him on his own beast, and brought him to an inn and took care of him. On the next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper and said, ‘Take care of him; and whatever more you spend, when I return I will repay you.’
Which of these three do you think proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell into the robbers’ hands?” And he said, “The one who showed mercy toward him.” Then Jesus said to him, “Go and do the same.” — Luke 10:25-37 NASB
It is the job of trial attorneys to get to the truth through their artful questioning of witnesses. One of the cardinal rules of witness examination is: Never ask a question to which you do not already know the answer. I like that this lawyer from 2000 years ago followed the same principle. When Jesus turns his question back on him, he has a ready answer: Love God, and Love your Neighbor. Ahhh, but who is your neighbor? The lawyer asks Jesus to define his terms, a good follow-up question. (Even a mediocre lawyer can look skilled by simply asking three basic follow up questions: (1) What happened? (2) What happened next? (3) What do you mean by that?). Jesus’ story in reply to the lawyer’s follow-up question implies that our “neighbor” is anyone that God puts in our path. I once heard a preacher say, “Anyone can show love to the lovely. What is the reward for that? We are called to love even the unlovely.”
As an attorney, I have had clients appointed to me that it would be generous to describe as unlovely: drunks, wife beaters, drug addicts, kleptomaniacs, egomaniacs, and shower-phobes…. Neighbors. Entitled to justice and fair treatment under the law.
It has been said that a person’s character is shown by how they treat those that can do nothing for them. I hope that I and members of my profession will demonstrate our character by the way we advocate for our neighbors.