This past Sunday I committed myself to be more intentional about "loving my neighbor", but what exactly does that mean?
In order to answer that question, I must begin with the question, "Who is my neighbor?"
This famous question was asked Jesus to which He responded with a parable. (See Luke 10:25-37) Yet the parable is only half the story. The interaction begins with the man's question, "What must I do to inherit eternal life?" Jesus answers by asking him, "What is written in the law?" To which the man replies, "Love the LORD your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and love your neighbor as yourself." Jesus answers, "You have answered correctly ... Do this and you will live." Then because the man wanted to justify himself he responds, "Who is my neighbor?"
The answer to the question, "Who is my neighbor?" is a tricky one. In essence, every person ever created, but especially those in close proximity to me at any time, is my neighbor. So in order to love my neighbor well, I need to see people (all people) as God sees them, and I need to love them as He loves them as an expression of my deep love for God Himself.
So, "Who is my neighbor?"
Most often we read the parable of the Good Samaritan, and we see that our concern should be for others, to love them in their time of need, and take care of them. I agree. That is certainly part of what Jesus is teaching. However, Jesus goes deeper. He requires that love must be not only outward but inward as well. It is possible to show compassion to another without actually loving them.
Consider the man's response when Jesus asks him, "Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?" He replies, "The one who had mercy on him." Notice what he does not say. He does not say, "the Samaritan" rather he says, "The one ..." This man hates Samaritans so much that it would be near impossible for him to acknowledge virtue in any one of them. He may learn to love outwardly (by showing mercy), but he fails to love inwardly (by acknowledging the personhood of the people he hates in his heart).
So the question, "Who is my neighbor?" is where our conversation must begin. What about you? Do you have any thoughts? I would love to hear what you have to say, as we journey together along the way ...