Luke 10:36-37 (NIV)
“Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?”
The expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him.”
Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.”
Perhaps it’s animal instinct, but we humans tend to seek out people of our own kind. We group ourselves with others who think like us, look like us, live like us, vote like us. We can be wary, skeptical, and dismissive of “those others” who think and act differently from the way we and our friends do.
The Gospel of Jesus makes a point of erasing our perceived social boundaries by boiling our identity down to one key question: Do we love and follow God or not? A yes or no answer will determine all the rest of it—how we see others, how we treat them, how we evaluate our circumstances and relationships.
The passage quoted above is an excerpt from Jesus’ familiar parable of the Good Samaritan. Earlier in the discourse, a self-righteous lawyer has tested Jesus by asking a question: Who is my neighbor? Jesus responds by telling a story that reveals the real question to be, not who is my neighbor? but rather, what kind of neighbor am I? The story teaches that the sincerity of our faith is demonstrated by how well we treat one another and especially our enemies—those whose hurt us, whose life choices offend us, whose thinking seems clearly on the wrong track. People whom we would never invite into our homes for a meal.
The Samaritan in Jesus’ parable looked upon his enemy—a Jew badly beaten to the point of death—and saw only a suffering man who needed loving kindness. Can we similarly look upon our “enemies” and see only fellow human beings who need our compassion and kindly words? Can we forgive their offenses, overlook our differences, and stand with them and for them instead of against them? Jesus says elsewhere that we should love our enemies. If we can do that, then we show ourselves to be good neighbors and true children of our Father in heaven.
FATHER, sometimes I entrench myself so deeply in my own opinions that I cannot see the real person behind my label of “enemy.” I allow myself to be biased by the rhetoric and limited perceptions of the group with whom I identify. Help me to identify first with your family and to seek your view of the world. Forgive the arrogance of my judging attitudes and teach me to love and value every person I meet.
Matthew 5:43-45; Galatians 3:28
In what area of your life—political, social, educational, religious—are you most likely to group people into “them” and “us”? Name at least six things you have in common with “those other” people.