Dear Friends in Christ,
Here’s a question for the merry month of May:
Who Is My Neighbor? (Luke 10:30-37)
When Jesus preached or was asked a question, he often responded with a parable. One example of this is the parable of the Good Samaritan. When asked, “Who is my neighbor?”, rather than respond with a direct answer, Jesus used the parable as a way of enabling his listeners to realize the answer for themselves. This parable has become so familiar that the term “Good Samaritan” is now a common expression. To call someone a Good Samaritan is a way of saying they helped those in need. In this passage, Jesus illustrates the qualities of a good neighbor by telling the story of a man who helped a poor stranger who had been robbed.
The parables of Jesus often defied people’s assumptions and prejudices; in this one, Jesus challenges our understanding of the word “neighbor.” We all know that it means someone who is very near. Sadly, we live in a time when, rather than loving our neighbor, many people choose to isolate themselves from those who are near to them. Whether through the excessive use of technology or social media, or the desire to separate ourselves from those whose faith, politics, or morals differ from our own, many people are increasingly reluctant to connect with and be present to those who are nearby.
Jesus, on the other hand, has shown himself to be so much more than just someone who is near to us. Through his earthly ministry, his sacrificial love, his death and resurrection, Jesus has given himself to take away the sins, the darkness, and the isolation of the world from its Creator. Through the gift of the Holy Spirit, he has bound us together as the Body of Christ.
The good neighbor in this parable is a Samaritan, a people who were looked down on by the Jews of Jesus’ time. They were considered heretics and traitors. Those who listened to Jesus tell this story would have been very surprised that the hero came from such a poorly regarded group of people. Who are the people in our time who we are too quick to judge? Who are the people who we too easily assume are incapable of being good neighbors?
Our neighbors might disagree with us or live lives that we disapprove of, but we are still called to love them. The Samaritan reminds us that those who are different may nonetheless have many Christ-like qualities. In other words, the person we assume would be the least likely to help is actually the one who not only helps, but goes far beyond our ordinary expectations of helpfulness. That is what the Good Samaritan did in the parable. That is What Jesus did for humanity in a much greater way.