Love. That’s the spirit of God’s law.
Jesus made it clear, even saying that “loving others” is the second greatest command. When talking with Jesus about the command, an expert in the law asked “but who is my neighbor?”*
The question- and Jesus’ answer of the parable of the good Samaritan- are often talked about to emphasize why we shouldn’t be discriminatory or prejudiced against others. Just like the good Samaritan, we ought to respond to those we encounter as though they are valuable to God.
We ought to be loving to everyone we come across, because really, who isn’t our neighbor?
With that truth in heart, we try to pay attention. We thank the waitress kindly. We stop to comfort a hurting stranger. We join local outreach causes to reach more neighbors in one fell swoop.
Too often, though, a swath of neighbors are overlooked.
They’re the ones we snap at after thanking the waitress. They hear our opinion instead of our compassion. They find our calendars too full for them while we’re out leading ministries.
Who isn’t my neighbor?
Family counts. Friends qualify. Coworkers make the cut.
It’s easy to make love a presumption with the people we have built-in. Click To Tweet
Loving the man robbed and injured on the side of the road can gain us recognition and a sense of self-satisfaction. Loving the people in the car with us? Well, no one even notices. Sometimes our life-passengers don’t even seem to pay attention to our efforts.
Christ tells us to love them anyway.
Our neighbors are the people God has given to us. They’re people God so loved the world He sent His only son to die for, that they might have eternal life. And so they might be called His children. The people around us are all we get to take with us when we go.
When we fail to see our built-in people as our neighbors, we fall into the trap of that Pharisee…
We check the roster to see who qualifies instead of checking our hearts to see who we dismiss.
At this point in history and culture, I think the parable of the Samaritan reads more like:
Someone was sitting ragged outside the grocery store. Person A walked by and rushed her kids past, not wanting them to see. Person B strolled past, not noticing because he was on the phone. Person C walked by and thought about stopping, but continued on instead since she was pondering the latest welfare programs, social rules, possible offenses or dangers, and stories she’d heard about people pretending to be homeless or being homeless but using strangers kindness to buy drugs.
Someone sunk into a booth at a restaurant, lonely, ashamed, and guilty about a recent mistake. Person A noticed the upset expression but remembered how that someone hadn’t been there for her even though she had bigger issues, so she stuck to small talk. Person B got annoyed about the sullen look and commented on “living with consequences.” Person C didn’t notice this old friend because they had to go comfort others in a support group they lead.
Someone sat in the waiting room, tears in their eyes, having just received a heavy diagnosis. They thought about calling Person A, but realized phone calls weren’t their thing and they were too busy anyway. Then they thought about texting Person B asking for a callback, but knew last time they shared with them, all they heard was opinions, worries, and stories about other people’s issues. Finally, they thought about posting something vague online to Persons C-Z, but didn’t think they could handle an influx of comments with praying hands and well wishes. Not at the same time as the sting of no privacy and no interpersonal support singed their desire for real friends.
Jesus’s answer is a question:
The Pharisee wanted to know who made the 'neighbor' cut. Jesus wanted the Pharisee to ask himself if he was being a neighbor to those God had placed around him. Click To Tweet
“Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the…” (someone?)
We do well to ask ourselves the same.
May we be less concerned with who is our neighbor (who isn’t?) and more attentive to our opportunities to show Christ’s compassion and love.
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