|Who Is My Neighbor?|
Luke 10:25-37 (NASB)
"Who is my neighbor?" This is a question that people have had to think about in the course of their daily lives for centuries. It is one that is relevant to us living today. Is our neighbor the person who lives next door to us? Is our neighbor the one we work with, or the person with whom we worship in church every week? This parable of Jesus is important because it defines how we should view others, regardless of who they are. In Christ's day Jews and Samaritans, to put it mildly, did not get along. In fact, the Jews held Samaritans in contempt. Jesus told this parable in this particular way to illustrate the foolishness and wrongness of this hate, and to show that neighbors include more than just friends or fellow countrymen. Our neighbors include those who live next door to us, our co-workers, and those with whom we worship. But our neighbors also include people we see stranded at the side of the road due to car trouble, the elderly man or woman who lives alone and wishes for someone to talk to, the outcast, those in need of friendship, and even those with whom we do not get along or are even our enemies. All these people, good or bad, those who like us or not, and those we like or not, are also our neighbors. In essence, everyone. Jesus calls us to be a neighbor to all, to be of aid to others in their time of need.
Jesus took an Old Covenant precept and re-interpreted it in the context of His message of love. In the context of the Gospel He was preaching. It seems Jesus may have been referring to this passage in Leviticus when he made the above statement Matt. 5:
It is easy to see from this passage how the Jews would come to the understanding that a neighbor was defined as someone living within the community of Israel, and that those outside this community were to be avoided, lest they become corrupted by their ways and turn away from God (Leviticus 20:23-24). But as time went on this exclusiveness turned to contempt and hatred of those outside the community of Israel. They were not considered neighbors, but treated as enemies. But Jesus took this cultural bias and attempted to turn it around. He called out for a higher standard on how people should treat each other. Why? Because God's blessings fall on the good and the bad alike. It is easy to love one's friends. Even non-Christians or atheists can do that. But one who has Christ working within is enabled to love on a higher level. A level which includes loving one's enemies.
Why should we consider everyone our neighbor? Because Christ laid down His life for all people. We are to love each other because Christ loves all of us. Doing so shows that Jesus lives in our hearts. We cannot say that we love God and at the same time hate our brother, who is our neighbor. When we let the Holy Spirit work in our hearts, we will be able to truly be a neighbor to those with whom we come in contact in our daily lives, even those with whom we may not get along, or even an enemy. We will be more willing to help strangers in need. By this all will see and know that we are disciples of Jesus and that He abides in us.