We live in a small town in almost the dead center of the USA and can literally walk from one end of the town to the other in about 15 minutes, so, I’d consider all 760 people in this town my neighbors. But by driving about fifteen miles north I arrive at a much larger city with much greater cultural diversity. Would I consider them my neighbors as well? In the parable of the “Good Samaritan”, Jesus teaches that ANYONE can be a neighbor.
A man was traveling from Jerusalem to Jericho, a rocky 18-mile journey descending down a desert, mountainous road, treacherous not only because of the dry terrain, but also because bands of robbers would hide in the rocks and attack unwary and unguarded travelers. This happened to this traveler; he was stripped, beaten, robbed and left for dead. No water, no food, no protection from the elements or wildlife, without help he was certain to die.
And there he lay until he heard footsteps. It was a priest, surely this person would have compassion on him. He summoned all the strength he could muster and croaked out, “Please help me.” But the priest couldn’t be bothered, after all if this man died, the priest would be unclean and unable to serve and that would be inconvenient, so he stepped over to the other side of the road and went past. A Levite, a temple worker, did the same. How often do “religious” people see the suffering in the world around us and we look the other way and do nothing at all to help. Not very neighborly!
Then a Samaritan came along. This was a hated, “half-breed” traitor to the Jewish way of thinking. Jews literally called them dogs. Yet this man stopped, gave the man a drink, bandaged his wounds, placed him on his donkey and took him to an inn where he cared for him, clothed him, and paid for his further care. Jesus asked his questioner, “Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?” Obviously it was the Samaritan.
What kind of neighbors are we? The school walkouts have been in the news this week, but I heard about some kids who instead participated in a “walk up”: walk up to that kid who is alone, to the hurting, the abused, the lonely, the depressed, the anxious and give them a friend. Be that neighbor that they need. We live in a world filled with people in desperate need of a neighbor to show them God’s love.