by Sandy Kirby Quandt
Who do we consider our neighbor?
Is our neighbor the people next door, across the hall, down the street?
Maybe our neighbor is the people in our development, in our school, in our city, state, country. Perhaps we enlarge our circle to include people outside our borders as our neighbor.
In Matthew 5:43-45 Jesus says, “You have heard that it used to be said, ‘You shall love your neighbor’, and ‘hate your enemy’, but I tell you, Love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Heavenly Father. For he makes the sun rise upon evil men as well as good, and he sends his rain upon honest and dishonest men alike.” (Phillips)
Apparently, the Scribes of the day added that bit about “hate your enemies”, because if you search, you’ll not find a Bible verse that tells us to hate our enemies.
When God said his people were to love their neighbor as themselves, (Lev. 19:18) seems the Pharisees interpreted that to refer only to those who love in return.
They defined neighbor as someone of the same nationality and faith.
Guess it seemed right to them in an if/then kind of way. If I love my neighbor who I define as someone like me, then it makes sense to hate those who are not like me.
A popular parable from the Bible tells the story of the Samaritan traveler who reached out at great expense to himself to care for a man who was not of his faith or nationality. We call the man the Good Samaritan.
The story recorded in Luke 10:25-37 begins with one of the experts in the Law asking Jesus what he must do to be sure of eternal life. Jesus answered the question with a question. “What does the Law say?”
“The Law says, ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind’, and ‘your neighbor as yourself.'”
Not quite liking Jesus’ answer, the man questioned further. “Who is my neighbor?”
This is when Jesus told the story of the man traveling from Jerusalem to Jericho who was jumped by a band of bandits who stripped him of his clothes, beat him up, and left him half dead. Both a priest and a Levite passed the man but did nothing. Presumably, these two men were of the same nationality and faith of the victim on the side of the road.
But when the Samaritan, a member of a nationality hated by the Jews at the time, saw the man lying half dead and naked, he took pity and bandaged his wounds before he put the man on his own mule, and brought him to an inn. The Samaritan paid for the victim’s care, and promised to pay more if necessary.
Jesus ended his parable with the question, “Which of these three seems to you to have been a neighbor to the bandits’ victim?”
From this story, it seems Jesus is telling us if we belong to him, then we are to be a reflection of his love to those around us and we are to love all kinds of people, no matter their nationality or race.
I wish you well.