Love Your Neighbor
Many years ago there was a conversation between two men. And though the discussion was between these two men, it was a conversation that plenty of bystanders heard. It wasn't a quiet conversation.
In fact, one man began the conversation by interrupting the main speaker in the room. So the bystanders listened as this man in the crowd stood up and challenged the speaker.
The question he presented the speaker with was this: "How do I get to heaven?"
The speaker replied: "What does your religion's holy book tell you about getting to heaven?"
To which the interrupting man stated bluntly: "Love my God with all of me and love my neighbor as myself."
When the speaker told him that to get to heaven he simply needed to do those two things, the interrupting man threw back this question:
Who is my neighbor?
This question was presented over 2,000 years ago by a religious expert addressing Jesus.
And yet, I believe we still struggle with this question today.
Perhaps it's a part of the human condition. That we can never fully come to terms with who our neighbors are in life.
We see this in the world around us don't we?
People define who they love very specifically to those who:
- Look like me.
- Act like me.
- Acknowledge my deity.
- Are in the same political party as me.
- Like the same things that I do.
- Hate the same things that I do.
And when we only love the people who make that list...there are a lot of people remaining for us to hate.
But that's how the world has always been hasn't it? Love those who love you and look like you. Hate those who hate you or don't look like you.
That's been the status quo of survival from the beginning of the human story.
Different is dangerous.
But that concept was turned on its' head by Jesus in his conversation with the religious expert which I described above.
Here's the rest of that conversation
Who is our neighbor?
Based off of the quoted conversation above we can answer this question in one of two ways.
First, you are a neighbor when you have mercy and compassion on someone.
Secondly, others are our neighbors when they are in need of mercy, compassion, love, and assistance.
So Jesus' challenged that man - and us - to redefine who we love.
To love those who need love, not just those who give us love.
Love those who need our help, not just those who can give us something.
When someone is in need, they are your neighbor. And when you help someone, you are their neighbor.
That's the challenge we have been given.
To redefine how we love and who we love. To redefine who our neighbor is.
So, in order to properly begin to love your neighbor, you have to begin with the question:
Who is your neighbor?