Like a Good Neighbor

The parable of the Good Samaritan found in Luke 10:25-37 that Jesus told the lawyer has been described as “almost dangerous” in at least one commentary.  And why?  Perhaps it’s because we’re so familiar with it that we already know or have our own interpretation of what it means. Maybe it’s issues of skin color, or religious beliefs, or politics, or gender preferences.  But as Jesus indicated that, in order to inherit eternal life, he should “love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength, and with all your mind” as well as “love your neighbor as yourself.”  Jesus affirms the lawyer’s reply, but then, there’s a follow-up question.  The man wants to justify himself and make sure he knows just where the boundaries are; just how far he needs to extend himself.  He wants to know the limit, the “acceptable range” of who qualifies as our neighbor?

But that we could shed this human shortcoming from our lives.  Especially in this time of divisiveness within our communities, our country, and the world.  With today’s nearly instantaneous mass communications, it takes only a matter of seconds for events of unrest to spread throughout the world—good or bad, truths or falsehoods—it doesn’t take much for events to “go viral” does it?

But Jesus’ parable about the Good Samaritan wasn’t a joke then, and it’s not a joke today.  This second greatest commandment Jesus shared with the learned man still plagues us today – “love your neighbor as yourself.”  Because we may not always want to recognize and treat people who are different than us as our neighbor.

No doubt you may have examples of good neighbors in your life, past or present.  Think for a moment what made the relationship positive.  What did you have or share in common, beyond living near one another? That isn’t always the case—sadly, just living next door to someone doesn’t mean they will necessarily be friendly, kind, communicative, or even civil.  So what is it that’s important for us to know in order to love our neighbor?

Back to the Good Samaritan.  Recall the lawyer’s response to Jesus after he finished telling the parable.  Jesus asked which of the three was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of the robbers. The man says “The one who had mercy on him.”  He couldn’t simply say and acknowledge that someone different than him – the Samaritan – did the right thing.  He couldn’t speak the words “Samaritan” as the hero of the story.  Instead the best he could muster was a generic response, to which Jesus said “go and do likewise.”

Jesus didn’t just die and rise from the dead for a particular denomination.  He didn’t suffer the humiliation and persecution, torture, and mocking, for a certain skin color or race, or gender.  Jesus died and rose again that everyone could be saved.  God loves each and every one of us.  We are all creatures of His creation.  He didn’t send Jesus just for those of Western European descent.  He did it for all of us.  And he calls each of us to love, not just the people who look like us or share our beliefs about politics, gender issues or even our favorite sports teams – he calls us to love all of our neighbors.

I close with an interesting perspective on the story of the Good Samaritan.  How would you answer this question:

What unexpected instances in your life have occurred where you allowed someone to be a Good Samaritan to you, to receive help when you needed it?