Who Is My Neighbor?

Who Is My Neighbor?

Most are familiar with the Parable of the Good Samaritan. In brief, a man is robbed, beaten and left for dead. A priest stumbles upon him, but moves on. Next comes a Levite who moves in for a look, but does nothing. Finally, a Samaritan shows up and moves into action. He tends to the victim’s wounds, gives him a lift, spends the night with him and pays for extended care.

Jesus told this tragic tale in response to a question. After challenging an inquisitive lawyer to “love others as your self” Jesus was asked, “Who is my neighbor?” It seems Mr. Lawyer was looking for loopholes. He hoped that there might be exceptions when it comes to those difficult to love. They’re not technically neighbors, are they?

After telling the Parable of the Good Samaritan, Jesus then asks the lawyer, “So which of these three do you think was neighbor to him who fell among the thieves?” (Luke 10:36) Did you catch what Jesus just did? He totally turned the tables on the lawyer. If I understand correctly, the moral of the story is this: Quit asking, “Who’s my neighbor?” Step up and be one!

That was to be the take home for the crafty counselor. He hoped to reduce the commandment of love to something easy, convenient and conditional. Jesus offered no wiggle room. “Who was the neighbor?” the lawyer is prompted. He actually gets it right! “He who showed mercy!” Jesus then instructs him, “Go and do likewise.”

We all have a tendency to put on the lawyer hat when it comes to loving people we don’t like. If it’s the panhandler we ask, “Is he really needy?” or “How do I know he won’t buy booze?” If it’s someone who is sick we might conclude, “Doesn’t the church do visitation?” As for the widow who needs help with the light bill we reason, “Isn’t she on government assistance?” All too often, these are mere attempts to dismiss needy people as neighbors. The commandment of love begins by being one. Once you see yourself as a neighbor, you see everybody else as a neighbor too.

“Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute.” Proverbs 31:8

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