With all that is going on in our nation and lives being lost among the Black community and police officers, we see stereotypes, fears, and assumptions made about one another, on the way people look and the color of their skin. It points to a great need for Jesus and what He asks of His followers to love our neighbors as ourselves. But who might you say our neighbor is? Who is your neighbor? Who is my neighbor?
On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?” “What is written in the Law?” he replied. “How do you read it?” He answered, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’” “You have answered correctly,” Jesus replied. “Do this and you will live.” But he wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” In reply Jesus said: “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he was attacked by robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead. A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, brought him to an inn and took care of him. The next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper. ‘Look after him,’ he said, ‘and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.’ “Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?” The expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him.” Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.” (Luke 10:25-37, NIV)
In Greek, the original meaning of “neighbor” means “friend”, and “any other person.” In Hebrews 8:11; according to the teaching of Christ, any other man irrespective of race or religion with whom we live or whom we chance to meet (which idea is clearly brought out in the parable). (Source: Tayer’s Greek Lexicon)
The priest and Levite who knew God and were religious, passed by the man. Fear took a hold of them as they probably didn’t know how to approach the man, who probably was a fellow Jew. They were also on the way to go somewhere and was focused on their final destination and did not make way for interruptions in life to happen. They also let fear, assumptions, and stereotypes cloud their judgment and willingness to help the man on the road. We can be like that too. However, it was the Samaritan, who Jews did not get along with because they were ethnically, culturally, and religiously different, who stopped and helped the man on the road.
As I’m writing this, a man in need actually just walked into the church office. He is homeless, his wallet got stolen, his family cut off contact with him, and he’s hungry and looking for resources to help him get back up on his feet again. God is humorous and gives us opportunities to love others in the most perfect timing! (I’m being sarcastic, but really it is God’s timing as His timing is always perfect!) It is my initial reaction to act in fear and to just find ways to have him leave the church office, but I felt like the Holy Spirit led me to make time for this man and ask him about his story, how he became homeless and what his current needs are, help resource him, give him food (snacks are what I had in the moment!), and pray for him.
It is inconvenient and risky to love others who are different than us, but isn’t that what Christ did for us on the cross, even risking His own life for us when we were still His enemies? It is inconvenient and risky to cross cultures and reach out to a neighbor who has a different culture and way of life, who looks different than us, and put down our own judgments and assumptions, learning to ask questions and hear their story instead.
What does it look like to love each other here at Crosswalk? What does it look like to love our neighbors, those that God puts in our path to meet and befriend? How do we respond when God puts someone in our path we don’t expect? Are we willing to be interrupted by God’s plans?
Take the time this week to meet up with someone who is of a different age group, ethnicity, religious background, or culture than you. Take the time to hear their story by asking some questions about them and laying down your rights, assumptions, judgments, and stereotypes. Ask the Holy Spirit to lead and guide you. We are never too young or too old to serve and love God and love our neighbors as ourselves. Ask God what it looks like for you to love your neighbors. Loving our neighbors is a tangible way of loving God as all people are created in God’s image.
There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. (Gal 3:28)
For he himself is our peace, who has made the two groups one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, by setting aside in his flesh the law with its commands and regulations. His purpose was to create in himself one new humanity out of the two, thus making peace, and in one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility. He came and preached peace to you who were far away and peace to those who were near. For through him we both have access to the Father by one Spirit. (Eph 2:14-18)