It is a simple question the lawyer asks of Jesus in Luke 10:29: “Who is my neighbor?” The scribes and Pharisees believed only the righteous were worthy to be treated as a “neighbor”; everyone else was to be hated. Jamie Smith (Desiring the Kingdom) spoke at the C3 Conference last week in Nashville and his modern-day observation echoed Jesus’ time: “As Americans, you have lost the desire for the “common good”. Rather than loving everyone you meet as your “neighbor”, you see everyone as a “threat” or as “competition”.
Our current world sees this vision of my “neighbor”:
- Every woman or man is competition for my spouse and a threat to my marriage
- Every person I meet wants to take my riches, time, or talent; I need to guard them at all costs
- Every person wants to learn my business secrets so that they can put me out of business
- Every person is prettier, smarter, richer, or more talented than me, and therefore I am inferior to my neighbor
In describing God’s kingdom, Jesus shows us a very different picture in the parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37). A priest and a Levite pass by a man beaten by robbers and left for dead on the road between Jerusalem and Jericho. They don’t want to get involved; the beaten man isn’t worthy. However, a Samaritan stops to bind his wounds with oil and wine and pays for his lodging, guaranteeing any additional charges to care for the man when he returns. In Jesus’ day, the priests and Levites would have been considered the “righteous” ones and the Samaritan would have been hated. Yet the Samaritan stopped to help the beaten man. At the end of the story, Jesus’ asked the lawyer, “Which one proved to be a neighbor?” The lawyer answered, “The one who showed him mercy.” The lawyer had answered correctly and Jesus concluded, “You go, and do likewise.”
To act out of love and not just out of law, I first need to have a vision of what God’s kingdom is like rather than what the world tells me. If I believe these in my heart, right actions will follow:
- I am a Beloved Child of God and every person is a Beloved Child of God (street sweeper, homeless person, and King)
- Everything that I have belongs to God: possessions, talent, beauty; everything
- God commands me to love my neighbor as myself
- Every person deserves mercy and compassion just as God has shown me
“Who is my neighbor?” Every person I meet: the man who lives next door, the prostitute in Rwanda that I’ll never meet, even my spouse and my children.
Show your neighbors mercy and compassion today; we are all Beloved Children in God’s kingdom.