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January 24, 2018, 8:07 AM

Who Is My Neighbor?

Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” (Matthew 22:36-40)

The Lord declares that we are to love our neighbor as ourselves. But who is my neighbor? We often respond to that question by saying, “My neighbors are all the people I am living with on this earth, especially the sick, the hungry, the dying, and all who are in need.” But this is not what Jesus says. When Jesus tells the story of the good Samaritan (see Luke 10:29-37) to answer the question “Who is my neighbor?” he ends by asking, “Which . . . do you think, proved himself a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of the robbers?” The neighbor, Jesus makes clear, is not the poor man lying on the side of the road, stripped, beaten, and half dead, but the Samaritan who crossed the road, “bandaged his wounds, pouring oil and wine on them, . . . lifted him on to his donkey and took him to an inn and looked after him.” My neighbor is the one who crosses the road for me!

We become neighbors when we are willing to cross the road for one another. There is so much separation and segregation: between black people and white people, between young people and old people, between sick people and healthy people, between Republicans and Democrats, between Jews and Gentiles, Muslims and Christians, Protestants and Catholics, and even those within the same congregation. There is a lot of road crossing to do. We are all very busy in our own circles. We have our own people to go to and our own affairs to take care of. But if we could cross the road once in a while and pay attention to what is happening on the other side, we might indeed become neighbors.

To become neighbors is to bridge the gap between people. As long as there is distance between us and we cannot look into one another’s eyes, all sorts of false ideas and images arise. We give them names, make jokes about them, put words in their mouth, assume the worst regarding their intentions, cover them with our prejudices, and avoid direct contact. We think of them as enemies. We forget that they are created in the very image of God and treat them as objects that can be dismissed or destroyed at will. Only when we have the courage to cross the road, look in one another’s eyes, and offer to bandage wounds can we see there that we are children of the same God. Who will you cross the road for today and be a neighbor? Who will you love as you are loved by God?

Let us join in prayer: Heavenly Father, thank you for crossing the road and bridging the gap when I was yet a sinner. Thank you for reaching out to me, bandaging my wounds, and granting me healing. Help me to go forth and do likewise. Help me to bridge the gap. Help me to love my neighbor. Amen.

You are Loved!

Pastor Jason Stevens

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