Who's My Neighbor?
“And he [the lawyer] 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 [Jesus] 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?’” Luke 10:27-29 (ESV)
I was a 10-year-old girl sporting a neon windbreaker and a perm when I received the greatest news of my life: winning my first solo in the church musical.
I had tried out for every single solo and musical production our church produced, but always came up short ... until this time. The best part? My solo was being recorded at a real music studio. I could hardly take the excitement.
The musical director loaded all the kids in the van who were singing in the ensemble for the recording, but only I had the coveted solo. As I sat in the back of the van dreaming about my big debut, one of the girls from the ensemble loudly declared, “The only reason Tracy got the solo is because she’s the pastor’s daughter.” All the kids laughed in agreement. My joy turned to humiliation and sadness as I stared out the window of the van so none of the kids could see my tears.
I took the pain of those words and decided to make that young girl pay. From that point on, I purposefully excluded her from slumber parties and play dates and created a coup with my friends to do the same. It all seemed to be working out nicely until the fateful day my mom discovered what I had been up to, and she announced I would be throwing the very girl who wounded me with her words a birthday party.
Then my mom had me use my hard-earned babysitting money to buy party favors, decorations and even a birthday present for my rival. I’ll never forget the look on that girl’s face when we surprised her with a party.
In our key passage today (Luke 10:27-29), we see a lawyer who’s desperately trying to rationalize the terms of the Great Commandment. He asks Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” To the lawyer, only Jewish neighbors were his neighbors.
To Jesus, everyone is a neighbor!
Jesus turns the tables, and instead of answering the lawyer’s question, He tells the parable of the Good Samaritan. If you remember the story, a man was beaten, robbed, stripped and left for dead on the road. Three men walked by and saw the half-dead man on the side of the road, but only one of them, the Samaritan, stopped to help. Jesus then asks the lawyer:
“Which of these three, do you think, proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell among the robbers?” (Luke 10:36, ESV)
We live in a world that begs the question: Who’s my neighbor?
In other words, can we just get a list of the people we have to love? Because frankly, it would be easier if we just knew the A-list, B-list and C-list of those we have to love and who we can just exclude in our day-to-day life.
If someone has hurt me, I prefer to exclude him or her from my neighbor list. But when Jesus asks the lawyer who “proved to be a neighbor,” He isn’t asking, “Who do you feel like loving today?” He’s asking, “Are you a neighbor?” He’s smoking out the biases in the lawyer’s heart — and the biases in ours as well.
My mom taught me an invaluable lesson: No matter what people say to me or do to me, I can choose to be a neighbor. As a 10-year-old, I “chose” to be a neighbor (mostly because my mom made me). I sure wish I could tell you I’ve never walked past another person again, but I’m not there yet.
Each day we’re confronted with the choice to be a neighbor to someone we don’t like or worse, one who’s hurt us. Jesus is asking all of us today, Are we willing to be a neighbor? Because our world could sure use more neighbors.
Dear Lord, thank You for loving me unconditionally and showing me how to love others in return. Help me to see those around me the way You see them — and to live as their neighbor in response. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
TRUTH FOR TODAY:
1 Peter 3:8, “Finally, all of you, be like-minded, be sympathetic, love one another, be compassionate and humble.” (NIV)
Proverbs 25:21, “If your enemy is hungry, give him food to eat; if he is thirsty, give him water to drink.” (NIV)
REFLECT AND RESPOND:
Who could you be a neighbor to today? Is there someone you don’t like or anyone who’s hurt you who could use some love?