|Wikimedia Commons, Public Domain, The Good Samaritan|
But wanting to justify himself,* he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”
* (A lawyer asked this question.)
Jesus replied, “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell into the hands of robbers, who stripped him, beat him, and went away, leaving him half dead. Now by chance a priest was going down that road; and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan while traveling came near him; and when he saw him, he was moved with pity. He went to him and bandaged his wounds, having poured oil and wine on them. Then he put him on his own animal, brought him to an inn, and took care of him. The next day he took out two denarii,gave them to the innkeeper, and said, ‘Take care of him; and when I come back, I will repay you whatever more you spend.’ Which of these three, do you think, was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of the robbers?” He said, “The one who showed him mercy.” Jesus said to him, “Go and do likewise.”
Luke 10: 29-38
So, who is REALLY my neighbor? In this day and age, we don’t find many people to whom we can minister in this way, so, in our modern age, who REALLY IS my neighbor.
Someone I know has an elderly mother who is mean and hateful. She is very abusive to her daughter. Even when she was younger, this nasty old lady was mean to her daughter. She’s often mean to other people. She likes to think she’s “out spoken,” but she’s just mean. Her daughter does more for her than anyone else. Her daughter is very kind to her and helps her daily. She’s helping her mother, at age 93, stay in her own home. Her mother has grown a little more frail, but her basic personality has not changed.
I don’t like her at all. I really don’t, and I wonder why her daughter is so kind to her. I don’t know. I know the commandments say, “Honor your father and your mother,” but…that’s an topic for another post.
Is this nasty, old lady my neighbor? According to what Jesus says, “Yes, she is.”
You know the lady at church who is so friendly and kind when she sees you, but when you’re not there, she gossips about you? We all know someone like her. Is she your neighbor? According to what Jesus says, yes. Do you have to like her?
You now that person who is jealous of you and very passive aggressive? This person is the one who will get mad when s/he thinks that you have done something s/he doesn’t like, and seeks revenge. This person is the one who tries to set things up for you so that you fail or look bad. We all know someone like this person. Is this person your neighbor? Of course, this person is. Do we have to like this person? Absolutely not!
Samaritans were enemies of the Jews. After the priest and levite ignored the plight of the Jewish man, a victim of robbery, the Samaritan saved the life of the Jew. He showed great compassion and mercy to this man. Their differences separated them, but the love and mercy of God brought them together.
I can hear Jesus saying this to me, “Just to be clear, Lord, Who is my neighbor?”
"Nasty old lady?”
“What do you think?”
“Two faced person?”
“What do you think?”
“Passive aggressive person?”
“What do you think?”
“All right, Lord. All right. I think I get it now. These people are in my life now. I know what I have to do. I ask you to bless them and forgive me. I am not being kind. All You ask is that I love them, so for You, I do. Bless them. Change them. Change me. Pour Your Love into their hearts. Fill their hearts until they overflow with your Love. Pardon them their sins, as you forgive me mine. i will be kind. It’s not going to be easy, but I will try. I will try. I also know that You will challenge me with more people whom I must love, even though I don’t like them. Thank you for this purification. Ouch! It’s not going to be easy, but Lent is 40 days. Each day will bring me closer to You! Thank you. Oh, I do get it. I don’t have to like them, but I do have to love them. Amen.”