Who is my neighbor?

As we walked beside–and chatted with–a national park attendant, last weekend, my toddler exclaimed, “He’s our neighbor, mommy!” And as I started to correct her, I paused and realized, she’s right! (From the mouth of babes, right?) Instead, I agreed with her, “You’re right, baby, he is our neighbor!”

I had to take a step away from social media for a few days. After the slaying of George Floyd, my heart ached. It ached for his family, and community. Then my heart ached because of the things people were saying about each other on Social Media. Judgmental things. Hurtful things. Divisive things.

Everyone reacts differently during the best of times, and it’s no different during the worst. What might make one person angry, might make another sad, simply because everyone sees the world differently, and expresses emotion differently. And it’s NOT okay to tell someone how they should feel or react, because everybody is different.

That Saturday night, my daughter’s words about our “neighbor” brought to mind the story of the Good Samaritan.

And behold, a lawyer stood up to put him to the test, saying, “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” He said to him, “What is written in the Law? How do you read it?” 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 he, desiring to justify himself, said to Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” Jesus replied, “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and he fell among robbers, who stripped him and beat him and departed, leaving him half dead. Now by chance a priest was going down that road, and when he saw him he passed by on the other side. So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan, as he journeyed, came to where he was, and when he saw him, he had compassion. He went to him and bound up his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he set him on his own animal and brought him to an inn and took care of him. And the next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper, saying, ‘Take care of him, and whatever more you spend, I will repay you when I come back.’ Which of these three, do you think, proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell among the robbers?” He said, “The one who showed him mercy.” And Jesus said to him, “You go, and do likewise.” ~ Luke 10:25-37, ESV

Did you catch that? “But he, desiring to justify himself, said to Jesus, ‘And who is my neighbor?'”

In response, I would question…does it matter? God calls us to love the people around us whether or not we look like them, think like them, believe the same things as them. We’re to love them whether or not they treat us kindly, whether they’re rich or poor, whether or not we agree with them. We’re to grieve with them, rejoice with them, acknowledge their feelings–whatever they may be–and treat them with respect.

The Samaritan in the parable above, was looked down upon by the Hebrews. Despised and avoided by them. But it was he, not the priest or the Levite, who was moved to compassion for this broken man. This human, created in the image of God. El imago Dei.

I’m going to leave you with some more Scripture regarding how we should love others, below, to meditate upon. If this seems impossible, it’s because in our own flesh, it is! But we’re people of the Spirit, and we have a love and power within us that surpasses anything this world could dish out.

  • “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect. ~ Matthew 5:43-48, ESV
  • “But I say to you who hear, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. To one who strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also, and from one who takes away your cloak do not withhold your tunic either. Give to everyone who begs from you, and from one who takes away your goods do not demand them back. And as you wish that others would do to you, do so to them. If you love those who love you, what benefit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who do good to you, what benefit is that to you? For even sinners do the same. And if you lend to those from whom you expect to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, to get back the same amount. But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return, and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, for he is kind to the ungrateful and the evil. Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful.” ~ Luke 6:27-36, ESV
  • “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.” ~ John 15:12-13, ESV
  • “Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good. Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor. Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord. Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality. Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be wise in your own sight. Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, ‘Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.’ To the contrary, ‘if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.’ Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” ~ Romans 12:9-21, ESV

Love, grace and peace to you. God bless!