Monday, October 19, 2009

Who is my neighbor?

We've been talking about neighbors with the students at the church for the past few weeks. Its, for me, been an interesting conversation to think about as I've been preparing for our time together.

We started this month by looking at the passage commonly known as the story about the Good Samaritan [Luke 10]. The point we made that night, is this is not a story condemning the priest and the Levite; in this story Jesus is answering the question asked by an expert in the Law: "Who is my neighbor?" So the story is looking to get this expert to see that the Samaritan is his neighbor. Now what we don't see in our American world, is who the Samaritans were to the 1st century Jews.

To a Jew at this time, the Samaritans were not well liked people. There is record in many ancient histories that, they committed acts of terrorism in the temple of Jerusalem [i.e. scattering pig bones in the temple]. We see in the book of Nehemiah that they did everything they possibly could to destroy the Jews [so they're arch-enemies]. We read in the Gospels, the way that they dispute the Jewish claims about religion [so this has an element of a holy war] We also read in the Gospels the ways that the Jews would go out of their way to avoid all contact with the Samaritans [so they ditest each other so much they won't even have contact with each other]. So if we were to create a 21st century counterpart to the 1st century Samaritan it would be the essense of the enemies of our country [a Taliban/Nazi/Communist].

The question he is asked is really somebody wanting to clarify who they should feel obligated to love. Jesus responds with the most ridiculous possible possibility: the Samaritan. If you read the story, you'll see at the end, that this expert in the Law cannot even say "Samaritan." His response is "the one who showed love." He hates the Samaritans so much that he refuses to even say the word, "Samaritan." When asked who we're responsible to love, Jesus says: "even the one who hates you and wants to see you dead, that's who you're supposed to love."

Let's look at this at two levels:

  • personal: who do you need to see as your neighbor personally? Who is your enemy? Who do you hate? Who do you find it hard to love?
  • global: who is does our country see as our neighbors? Who is our enemy? Who do we hate? Who do we find it hard to love?

So the question today is: Who is your neighbor?