Who is My Neighbor?

One day, Jesus was talking to group of his followers when a lawyer asks “Hey man, I like this ‘live forever’ idea you’ve been talking about. How does a fellow do that?” Jesus looked at him for a minute, then said “Well, you’re a lawyer. What does the law say?” The lawyer answers “Love God with everything you’ve got. And, love your neighbor just like you love yourself.” Jesus nodded and said, “Dude, you just answered your own question.” But, being a lawyer, a simple answer wasn’t enough for this cat. So, he says “Well, that sounds easy enough. But, when you say neighbor, are you talking about the joker that lives next door to me?” Some of the apostles, (mainly Peter, James and John) started muttering about what a doofus this guy was. Jesus just smiled and shook his head. Then he started telling a story. “One day, this guy was on the road from Jerusalem to Jericho. Now, ya’ll know how rough that road can be. Sure enough, as he was walking by some bushes, a bunch of dudes jumped out and mugged him. Oh, it was bad. Beat him up, took everything he had, even his clothes, and left him laying there on the side of the road. Now, this brother was in bad shape. I’m talking about-to-die bad. After a while, a preacher came by and saw him laying there in his underwear. Man, he thought to himself, ain’t no telling what’s going on over there. I’m not getting involved, so he crossed to the other side of the road to avoid the poor guy. A little bit later, a deacon in the local church was passing by. He saw the fellow lying on the side of the road and said to himself “What a freak, laying in the road-ditch in his underwear like that. Somebody ought to do something”. But, he wasn’t about to get involved with a character like that and he hurried on by. Next, a Samaritan”, Jesus paused at this point, because almost as one the crowd drew an audible breath at the mere mention of the name “Samaritan”. “That’s right, one of those nasty, disgusting Samaritans came along. Guess what this cat did? He went straight over to the man, got out his first aid kit and went to work, mending the fellow’s wounds as best he could. Then, he picked him up and carried him to the nearest hotel. Checked in and spent the next day looking after our poor, beat up friend. In the morning, he had to get on the road since he was traveling for business. But, he stopped in the office, paid for another couple of days and told his friend, the manager, “Look, man, there’s a dude up in 202 that got beat up and robbed the other day. How about looking after him for few days and I’ll make it right with you when come back through. You know I’m good for it”. Now, if you were the dude laying in the road, who was your neighbor?” Without hesitating, the lawyer said “The guy that looked after me”. “There you go” said Jesus, “do the same and you’ll be all right”.

I told that story with the language I did to make a little easier to understand. Okay, I also did it because it was fun imaging Jesus sitting in the corner at Paul’s Grocery on Poole Road in Knightdale NC, holding forth for the usual crowd. But, I like this story. In fact, it’s one of my favorites. Everyone always focuses on the Samaritan doing the right thing for the guy. But, what gets me is that it’s a Samaritan that commits the act of love. Nowadays, that would be akin to a fundamental Muslim doing the same for a Christian. And, at the end, he tells this highly religious lawyer, a guy that did nothing but study the Torah all the time, to be like the Samaritan! That would be like telling Billy Graham to follow the example of a drug addict or an alcoholic. The point, here, is that we not supposed to just love those we’re comfortable with. No, Jesus said to love your enemies, because if you only love those that love you, what have you really accomplished? The other thing to be gleaned from this story is that everyone is our neighbor. Everyone. Not just those in our neighborhood, or town, or state. Or even country. Whenever there’s a natural disaster outside the United States, you’ll hear a lot of voices complaining about helping folks who aren’t Americans.  The thing that gets me is that some of the loudest of these voices are the same ones that tout the United States as a “Christian” nation. Makes me wish I was a Samaritan sometimes.