Who is My Neighbour?

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Feb 4, 2017

Dear Friends,

In His ministry, Jesus frequently asked and entertained pointed questions! Jesus would often counter with a question of His own. Case in point, is the interaction between Jesus and a “law expert” as described in the Gospel of Luke. Jesus encountered many people in the line of duty. This young man approaches Jesus -asking him about the entry requirements for life eternal. Jesus responds with a question of His own. “What is written in the Law?” Jesus asks. The Law Expert confidently proclaims “Love the Lord your God with all your heart…soul…and strength, and love your neighbour as yourselves.”

(based on Luke 10:25-28.) If the discourse had finished there, there would have been no story. But, alas, the law expert could not help himself. “Who is my neighbour?” he asked.

As a response, Jesus takes the opportunity to teach. He tells the law expert the Parable of the Good Samaritan. Using characters whom would be familiar to the Law expert, Jesus drives his point home. He tells of a brutal attack on a man who was travelling the Jericho road – a road synonymous with violence. The attacked man, left for dead was in grave trouble. Two people, a priest and then Levite (a holy man assistant to the priests), passed by the injured man and failed to help. It was the third man, a Samaritan, who not only stopped, but went to great lengths to help the injured person. The Samaritan provided first aid, then transported the needy person to an inn and entrusted him to the care of innkeeper – telling the innkeeper that the he, the Samaritan would cover all further costs for his care until he recovered.

Jesus then asks the question which must have stung in the ears of the law expert: “Who, of the three was a neighbour to the man…?”  The law expert’s reply: ” the one who had mercy on him” Jesus said: ” Go and do the same!”  (based on Luke 10:30-37)

Jesus’ use of the parable served to teach and remind the law expert and us – just who are neighbour is…and whom we should be ready to help. Jesus was proclaiming that our neighbours are not ONLY the people next door, or the people we like or the people with whom we agree, or the people whom it is convenient to help, or the people with which we share ethnicity or common faith.

Being neighbourly is risky. It was risky for the Samaritan to help the injured man. By helping he risked being attacked, himself as this was common on the Jericho road. By helping, he risked missing his appointments which we he was travelling to. By helping, he risked being taken by the Innkeeper, into whose care he entrusted the injured man. He could have made the choice to move on – protecting himself and his own interests.

The results of, and new reality since the American election, have revealed polarizing views about how we respond to “neighbours.” One commonly held idea is that “we must look after ourselves, as there are enough problems in our own backyard.” The parable proclaims to us the appropriate response for followers of Jesus, we have to be ready to help anyone! While it is true that we must exercise wisdom, our hearts must be ready and turned towards others as a reflection of the love and grace of Jesus.  We can do this on a one to one basis and at a national level.

The recent and on-going refugee crisis, provides us an opportunity to not simply think about the Jesus teaching and call, but to act courageously, knowing that by doing so, we are following in the footsteps of the One whose family was turned away at His birth and who died for us in a similar fashion -as an outcast! Who is your neighbour?   How will you respond to their need?


In the Peace of Christ,