Won’t You Be My Neighbor?
I have always been fascinated with Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood. The half-hour television show invited viewers into the Neighborhood of Make-Believe. During the show, watchers were taught difficult and challenging social topics but also what being a good neighbor looks like. Fred Rogers once said, “As human beings, our job in life is to help people realize how rare and valuable each one of us really is, that each of us has something that no one else has – or ever will have – something inside that is unique to all time.”
Jesus teaches a message similar to this in Luke 10. Here, Jesus is challenged by someone who is identified as an expert in the law. The expert asks Jesus, “What must I do to inherit eternal life?” This question has magnificent implications but Jesus knows the man already has his answer prepared. The expert gives Jesus the standard answer from Deuteronomy 6 and Leviticus 19, both foundational responses to the Jewish existence. But the real question at the root of the expert’s dialogue with Jesus is, “Who is my neighbor?”
It is here that Jesus challenges the expert’s definition of neighbor. Jesus tells a parable about a man who has been robbed on a dangerous road that connected Jerusalem and Jericho. Left to die, the victim’s survival is dependent on the hospitality of strangers. The first two individuals (a priest and a Levite) pass by the man and ignore his time of need. But, a Samaritan stops and helps the man.
A quite note, the Jewish people hated the Samaritans. This hatred is important because the Samaritan was the last person that any Jew would have thought would help this man in need. But in the story, the Samaritan is the neighbor.
The story of the Good Samaritan illustrates that the love of one’s neighbor must transcend all natural or human boundaries. That means loving those we disagree with. That means loving those we hate. We are called to love like God loves.