Who is My Neighbor?

During my fall break from school, my daughter Rachel and grandson Isaiah flew in from Kansas City to spend a few wonderful days with us. On one of those days we visited the world-class Indianapolis Children’s Museum along with an estimated 12,000 others. Needless to say, being able to share space and toys was the required skill for the day and when you are two years old and an only child that is asking a lot. There were more than a few occasions when Isaiah had comfortably settled in to play only to find out that others had their eye on the things he had piled in front of him. When he objected with a vehement “No!” to another child, Rachel would intervene with, “Let’s share with our friends.” The look on his face that followed such reminders was one of confusion. I know he was probably thinking, “I’m sorry, momma, but you must be mistaken. Those kids are not my friends. In fact, they are perfect strangers to me!”

It makes me wonder if that’s not my own subconscious attitude sometimes. To my friends and family I try to be loving and giving, but when it comes to the unnamed and unknown hurting and the helpless in the world am I doing as much as I could? It reminds of the introduction to the parable that Jesus told of the Good Samaritan. In the tenth chapter of Luke I read that an expert in the law asked Jesus what he should do to inherit eternal life. When Jesus asked him what the law said the man rattled off, “‘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 love your neighbor as yourself.”  I can just picture that man in my mind parroting back what he had learned in his life long study of the Torah. In my mind, he is saying it with all the conviction of a child reciting the state capitals. The information was in his head, but not in his heart. Still, Jesus told him that he had answered correctly. But of course because the man was trying to justify himself, he couldn’t let it go at that and pressed Jesus a little harder asking him, “And who is my neighbor?” That’s when he got an answer he wasn’t expecting.

In reply Jesus said: “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he was attacked by robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead. A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, brought him to an inn and took care of him. The next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper. ‘Look after him,’ he said, ‘and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have. “Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?”The expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him.”Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.” Luke 10:30-37

I realize that as a Samaritan the kind man was actually the cultural enemy of the beaten man. Sadly, I also know that priest and the Levite represent the churched people in the world and if I am not careful that can easily be me. It can be me who turns a deaf ear to the suffering around me if I am not tuned into the Spirit. If I decide that my neighbors, my friends, are only the ones that I recognize in my day-to-day living then it becomes me who crosses the street so I don’t have to help the bruised and bleeding one in the road.

Oh, Lord have mercy on me and my short-sightedness. Let me see beyond my own little world to be the Good Samaritan to the unknown friends and neighbors that need my help. Break my heart, Lord for the ones who break Your heart. Be my guide to sharing your love.

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