Neighbors Have Told Me Things I’d Rather Not Know
Ed, my old neighbor in Saskatchewan, had a question for me yesterday. He asked, “Why does the Bible tell us to love our neighbors and our enemies since they could be the same people?” My answer was that Ed should treat them both as friends even if they are acting more like an enemy to him.
Friendship is a gift, or an attitude of respect and support, offered to another person. When a gift of friendship is offered, it may be rejected, but it well could become a mutual relationship instead of a one-sided effort. Unfortunately, friendship is often seen as very narrow for us, just a specific few individuals, and so is our definition of a neighbor.
We get stuck on the idea that our neighbors can only be those next door, adjacent, or near us. Neighbors may like us or shun us, ignore us, may even hassle, disturb, or hate us. Haven’t we all heard stories about someone’s neighbor that we really would instead not have heard?
I told Ed that Jesus had a large and expansive view of a neighbor. To Jesus, a neighbor is anyone who needs our help in the sense of our compassion. Our willingness to help a neighbor is to be stretched to help anyone in need. Anyone in need that we can help is our neighbor.
Jesus answered the question, “Who is my neighbor?” with this story. “A man was going down to Jerusalem to Jericho, and he fell among robbers who stripped him and beat him and departed, leaving him half dead.” (Luke 10:25-37)
The man who robbers attacked wasn’t expecting to find himself lying half dead at the side of the road. However, he could not help himself. He could only hope someone would help him. A priest came along but did not help him. Likewise also a Levite came along and also saw the beaten man but did not help him either.
Thankfully, a Samaritan came down the road and stopped and helped the beaten man. He bound up his wounds, set him on his own animal, brought him to an inn, and took care of him. The next day he left money with the innkeeper for the hurt man’s care. Thus, he proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell among robbers. Jesus tells us we need to be a neighbor to others in the same way as the Samaritan.
The Samaritan loved the beaten man as himself. Love is the summary of the Ten Commandments, which is the love of God and love of neighbor. Romans 13:10 says, “Love does no harm to its neighbor. Therefore, love is the fulfillment of the law.”
The Samaritan put love into action. It is not knowing God’s will but also doing it. God is love. He showed his love among us by sending Jesus as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. Since God loved us in Christ, we ought to love one another. If anyone says, “I love God,” yet hates his brother, he is a liar. For anyone who does not love his brother, whom he has seen, cannot love God, whom he has not seen. Whoever loves God must also love his brother. (1 John 4:8,10-11,20,21)