Inspired by an American auto insurance company jingle…AND the Bible!
“Just then a religion scholar stood up with a question to test Jesus. ‘Teacher, what do I need to do to get eternal life?’ He answered, ‘What’s written in God’s Law? How do you interpret it?’ He said, ‘That you love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind [passion and prayer and muscle and intelligence]—and that you love your neighbor as well as you do yourself.’ ‘Good answer!’ said Jesus. ‘Do it and you’ll live.’ But he, wanting to justify himself, asked Jesus, 'And who is my neighbor? [just how would you define ‘neighbor?’”] ~ Luke 10:25-29
"Jesus answered by telling a story. 'There was once a man traveling from Jerusalem to Jericho. On the way he was attacked by robbers. They stripped him, beat him up, and went off leaving him half-dead. Luckily, a priest was on his way down the same road, but when he saw him he angled across to the other side. Then a Levite religious man showed up; he also avoided the injured man. A Samaritan traveling the road came on him. When he saw the man’s condition, his heart went out to him. He gave him first aid, disinfecting and bandaging his wounds. Then he lifted him onto his donkey, led him to an inn, and made him comfortable. In the morning he took out two silver coins and gave them to the innkeeper, saying, ‘Take good care of him. If it costs any more, put it on my bill—I’ll pay you on my way back.’ ‘What do you think? Which of the three became a neighbor to the man attacked by robbers?’ ‘The one who treated him kindly and showed him mercy,’ the religion scholar responded. Jesus said, ‘Go and do the same.’ ~ Luke 10:30-37 MSG
How often are we the “religion scholar” or “lawyer” as other translations put it? How often do we mimic the actions of the Levite religious man with the Samaritan and, with our percieved smarts, seek to “justify ourselves” by attempting to dismiss, explain away or avoid the “injured man/woman” right in front of us. We know doctrine. Our theology is sound. Our arguments are tight. We certainly are adept at how to defend what we believe. We are respected and treat our immediate family with love, care and kindness. We’re faithful in our church attendance. We even aid far away missionary efforts in other countries by giving money, resources and the occasional mission’s trip. However, the active, daily missionary life – the proverbial outstretched hand that may be offered right where you live and work – is next to non-existent….especially toward people who don’t look like you.
Oftentimes, your neighbor doesn’t look like you. They don’t talk like you or live like you. They don’t read or study under the same teachers and preachers as you. They don’t pray or worship like you or vote like you. They don’t have the same cultural, ethnic or socioeconomic background as you. They may dislike things you like or prefer somethings that you’d rather reject. However, in accordance with Scripture, they remain your neighbor and per the commandment of Jesus are to be loved as well as you do yourself.
And here’s the thing: it’s nearly impossible to love our neighbors if we don’t know our neighbors. And I’m not talking about a superficial, seasonal “knowing”. I’m talking about at least attempting to intentionally… deliberately live life with or amongst people who aren’t in a familiar “tribe”. It’s difficult. It’s inconvenient. Annoying, possibly. Necessary, absolutely! And herein lies the tension of our times: We live in such a connected world with such limited or nonexistent connection. Relationships matter. Make them. Pursue them. Be deliberate. Be intentional. Be uncomfortable, even. But be a neighbor – like, a GOOD NEIGHBOR – and love them, as such.