Who is My Neighbor?

Updated: Sep 10, 2020

Who is My Neighbor?

We have a crisis of epic proportions today in the United States. The number of homeless, hungry, unemployed, and uninsured is staggering. It’s hard to pass a major intersection without seeing someone standing with a sign asking for help.

I never thought I would see so many people struggling to meet basic needs in my lifetime. A friend recently asked me, “When did life get SO HARD?” I don’t know. But it did.

For me, it was 5 years ago when I lost my job. I never in my wildest dreams thought I would be living in a world where I couldn’t find a job. So here I am, trying to start my own business. I am one of the lucky ones. I still have resources. Others are not so fortunate.

There’s been a lot of talk lately about “the least of these”. It is the passage in Matthew 25 where Jesus says that if we turn away those in need, we are in effect turning him away. Mother Teresa often quoted this passage during her work with the poor.

I have seen articles that refute the common interpretation of this passage. Some even say that Jesus was only referring to his Jewish brothers in this passage. Have we become so hard hearted that we are trying to put limits on who God tells us to love and help?

I am not a theologian or a pastor, but I am a lifelong student. Let me address a few things.

First of all, the gospel of Matthew was written for the Jews. So it is likely that the specific language used in this passage did reference other Jews. However, that does not mean that Jesus intended us to limit who we call a neighbor.

Let’s look at another passage in Luke, a gospel written for non-Jews. Perhaps you’ve heard of it. It’s called the Parable of the Good Samaritan.

I find it telling that the man questioning Jesus here was a religious scholar. He was trying to determine the letter of the law while missing the spirit of what Jesus was teaching. So Jesus made it very plain in this parable found in Luke 10.

In the Parable of the Good Samaritan, a Jewish man was beaten, robbed, and left for dead on the road. Two different religious leaders passed by the man on the road and kept walking. Neither could be bothered to stop and help a dying man!

How often do we do the same? Maybe the situation isn’t life or death. Perhaps someone needs help finding a job. Maybe they need food, medical care, or a place to stay. Perhaps they need a friend. But we don’t want to get involved. After all, they aren’t part of our family. Are they?

The man who stopped and cared for him was a Samaritan. Jews and Samaritans despised each other. Yet this Samaritan tended the man's wounds, took him to an inn, and paid for his lodging and recovery. There is no mistaking Jesus’s point in this parable.

Love your neighbor as yourself. Not only your Christian neighbor. Love your foreign neighbor. Your hated neighbor. Your “different from you” neighbor. Jesus was very clear. In God’s economy, all are loved and all are welcome. Period.

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