“But he wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” -Luke 10:29
The question asked by this “expert in the law” is the wrong question. It is still the wrong mindset and question today. The real question is not “who is my neighbor” but “am I being a true neighbor” to those I see in need?
Jesus’ answer to this man’s question is one of the most well-known parables he ever told. We often refer to it as the “Good Samaritan” story. It’s about a man who is beaten up by robbers and left for dead. Jesus specifically then says that two religious leaders walk by this man, but do not stop to help him. But that’s not the real shocker for the people of Jesus’ day. The real shock is when Jesus says a Samaritan (enemies of the Jewish people at the time and looked down upon) walks by, has compassion on this man, and at his own personal expense tends to this man’s needs.
When Jesus gets to the end of this story he re-frames the original question from “who is my neighbor” to “who was a neighbor” to this man in need? The expert in the law, along with all his listeners had to acknowledge that it was the one who “had mercy on him.” Jesus then said “go and do likewise.”
Your neighbor is not just those close to you, in your community, church, city, state or country. Your neighbor is not those just like you, or of the same race, gender, age, interests, religion, political persuasion or anything else. Your neighbor is anyone, at anytime, anywhere, that you come across and see in need. The question is not who is your neighbor, but will you be a neighbor to those in need, even at your own personal expense?
I have to admit I am flabbergasted by a narrow minded view I see and hear among some Christians and also some Americans in general. I understand that we should love our country and help those in need here at home (which is often the case in beautiful ways!). But I am continually shocked and saddened especially when I hear professing Christians talk as if God has only called us to those like us, in our own church, own community, own city or own country. Jesus’ love and compassion, vision and passion is for all the world (John 3:16), so why shouldn’t ours be as well? His love knows no boundaries or man-made differences, so why should ours?
That doesn’t mean we let go of our values, differences or beliefs. It just means we are to be generous and compassionate to those we see in need as we journey through this broken, beat-up and hurting world. Americans have historically been known for their generosity. And in fact in times of disaster and crisis there tends to be a rallying together that is heart-warming to see.
But especially as Christians, we shouldn’t stop just within our community or country. Jesus said in Acts 1:8, But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”
Yes, start right where you are, but heaven forbid it stop there! This thing is to go to the ends of the earth. And as Christians, all we do is to be done in the Name of Jesus, out of His heart and compassion for the world.
You can’t say as a Christian or Church that you are only called to your own community. You are called to all the world! (see Matthew 28:18-20). The question is not who is your neighbor, but will you be a neighbor wherever and whenever you see people in need, whether they are “friend” or even “foe?” Will we serve those in need, whoever they be, even or especially, at a personal cost and inconvenience to us?
***To discover ways you can serve those in great need around the world check out the mission organization I lead: www.weservenow.org.