Feature Stories

Love lessons from the Savior’s parables, part 1: Let go of preconceived ideas

A group of people of all ages passes on good deeds.
Love doesn’t consider convenience or efficiency. Christlike love thinks only of the other.
Illustration by Maki Yamaguchi

Editor’s note: This excerpt is part one of a three-part series featured in this month's LDS Living magazine.

Throughout His mortal ministry, Jesus Christ instructed His followers how to love the way He loves, not only by His example but in many of His parables. Over the next few weeks, we'll look at three parables to explore the simple yet radical lessons He taught about how we can learn to “love well.” Read part two and part three.

The Good Samaritan

The parable of the good Samaritan teaches us to let go of preconceived ideas about who can serve and receive love.

Jesus related this story because a Jewish lawyer asked Him how to inherit eternal life (see Luke 10:25–27). First, Jesus asked the man how the law would answer that question. The lawyer appropriately responded that, to inherit eternal life, we must obey the first and second great commandments: to love God with all our heart and mind and to love our neighbor as ourselves. The lawyer then asked the Savior, “Who is my neighbour?” He appears to be hoping for qualifiers to narrowly define the “neighbour” he is required to love, including whom he did not need to love.

I can imagine the lawyer having our equivalent of a little notepad, eagerly awaiting the Savior’s response so he could write down what the bare minimum effort necessary is to obtain the greatest of all gifts.

But rather than giving a concise definition, Jesus shared a parable in which a traveler is left stripped, wounded, and half-dead by the side of the road. Two people who are considered moral and religious examples in society see the traveler and pass by without offering any assistance. The hero of the parable is a Samaritan who comes to where the traveler has fallen, has compassion for him, and binds up his wounds with oil and wine. He then transports him on his own beast to an inn where he secures help to care for the wounded traveler, pays the costs for such care, and guarantees payment for any subsequent costs when he returns.

The Savior’s choice of making our hero a Samaritan is striking for a couple of reasons. First, the Jews at the time viewed all Samaritans with disdain, even refusing to step near their lands or touch anything they touched. Samaritans were deemed unclean by the Jews due to their mixed lineage, resulting when the residue of Israelite residents in the Northern Kingdom intermarried with Assyrian peoples introduced to the land of Israel after the Assyrian Conquest in 721 BC. And because of this mixed lineage, the Jews’ animosity toward the Samaritans had endured for centuries. Today, this form of prejudice is called racism.

Jesus may have felt a particular kinship with the Samaritans. Many Jews also rejected and denigrated Him because of what they believed was His questionable parentage. Some Pharisees taunted Him, “We be not born of fornication,” implying that Jesus was (John 8:41). As the Son of the immortal Almighty God and the mortal Mary, Jesus could also be considered mixed lineage.

Furthermore, one can easily see that the good Samaritan in the parable is a type of Jesus Christ—He who meets us where we are, binds up our wounds through His sacrifice (symbolized by wine and oil), and covers the costs of our stumbles and falls in life, promising to come again to redeem us. Of all those He could have used to typify Him, Jesus chose a Samaritan.

Therefore, before the lawyer even heard the end of the parable, his expectation for a simple, exclusionary answer was shattered. When Jesus asked him to identify this hero, “Which now of these three, thinkest thou, was neighbour unto him that fell among the thieves?” the lawyer seemed unwilling to say, “the Samaritan,” but instead said, “He that shewed mercy on him.” This reluctant answer shows the animosity he still held toward his northern neighbors. The account concludes with Jesus counseling the lawyer (and us), “Go, and do thou likewise” (Luke 10:36–37).

We can find many lessons of how to love more like the Savior loves in this parable. First is the Lord’s insistence to “[esteem] all flesh in one” (see 1 Nephi 17:35), or refuse to differentiate levels of righteousness based on ethnicity, race, gender, or social status. He invites us to expand our compassionate reach beyond those who look, dress, and speak as we do.

Secondly, the parable urges us to set aside our minimalist approach to ministering to others. No longer can we be satisfied with a monthly visit to a finite number of individuals assigned to us. To whom are we to show compassion and care? How often? How much? This parable reminds us that Christlike love, compassion, and service know no limits. Jesus exemplifies the nature of His love by relating how the Samaritan found the man in need by the side of the road and went to him—without being assigned or waiting for the man to come to him.

We learn that love doesn’t consider convenience or efficiency. Christlike love thinks only of the other.

Furthermore, the parable neither tells us how financially secure the Samaritan was nor how much medical training he had—nor where he was going and why when he encountered the wounded man. Apparently, those details aren’t important. We are told simply that the Samaritan gave what he had and ensured the man received the continued help he needed. Here is another lesson for us. We don’t need to be the best cook to offer to feed another, a medical professional to offer healing aid, or flush with cash to ease another’s burdens. If we sincerely give what we can, the Lord blesses it and magnifies it, and miracles happen.

When we help someone in need, we discover that we ourselves are strengthened and our wounds are healed. That is because there is only one True Good Samaritan. He is Jesus Christ, our Healer and Redeemer. So, in loving others as Christ does, we receive His love in even greater abundance. Love begets love.

In a world where increasing numbers of people feel isolated and unseen, the parables of Jesus teach us to forget ourselves and see many who will warm to our compassion, assistance, and non-judgmental friendship. Together, we can learn to love as He loves us.

Read part two about the parable of the gospel net and part three about the parable of the two debtors.

Read more in the LDS Living May/June 2024 magazine

Love offers us precious moments of reprieve and joy that spur us to keep going on our walk back to our loving eternal home. And that is why the LDS Living staff is so excited about the theme for this issue: Love Well.

Our hope is that something in this issue inspires you to make space in your life for love: space to recognize it, offer it, and—perhaps most importantly—receive it. Plus, find excerpts from our best recent podcast episodes, comments from our readers, a recipe, fun facts, and more! Available at Deseret Book and deseretbook.com.

Our bi-monthly LDS Living print magazines are included with Deseret Book Platinum Rewards memberships. We also have a stand-alone subscription available. Manage your subscription here.

▶You may also like: Use these questions to help your family really understand what it means to love well

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