It’s a beautiful day in this neighborhood,
A beautiful day for a neighbor.
Would you be mine?
Could you be mine? . . .
Please won’t you be my neighbor?
Perhaps no one more than Fred Rogers, Mr. Rogers, has made us all aware of the idea of being a neighbor. Mr. Rogers had a certain friendly charm that invited people into his TV neighborhood. But sitting safely at home, watching the TV, may not by itself make us better neighbors. I find that it’s all too easy to be a “virtual” neighbor. Some of us might actually prefer the take of Robert Frost’s neighbor: “Fences make good neighbors.”
But the deepest wisdom about being a neighbor, as always, comes from Jesus Himself.
We’re all familiar with the parable of the Good Samaritan – so familiar that we might miss its true sharp edge. The whole point of Jesus’ parable is to turn the tables on the lawyer’s justification of himself. The real question is not “Who is my neighbor?” but “Who’s Neighbor Am I?”
“Which of these 3 was neighbor?” Jesus asks in verse 36. The bald fact this morning is that Jesus is calling you to love your neighbor – by being a neighbor. And remember: no trying to put a hat or toupee on the bald fact! Instead, you’re to confront it.
Maybe you’re being called today to help someone you meet with a physical, emotional, or spiritual need. Maybe you’re being called to tell someone about the love and salvation that faith in Jesus Christ brings. Or maybe you’re to be a neighbor to someone in your church by teaching them more about life in Jesus Christ. All of these, and many more, are ways of showing love; all are ways of becoming a neighbor and loving your neighbor as yourself.
Jesus wants you to put yourself into this story – that’s the point. But we need to transport you from the road to Jericho and the story of the Good Samaritan and to your own life. Instead of trying to remain in 1st century Israel, you should imagine a typical day in your life. Imagine the roads that people take which intersect with your life, even if those roads are just the ones in your own house.
As you imagine a typical day in your life and the people whose paths cross yours, you might need to keep flipping to a series of different “typical” days until you find one that has someone in it to whom God is calling you to be a neighbor. So imagine a typical day. Who do you come across in that day? As you gaze intently at the faces of the people you meet, do you discern that any of them have particular needs that you are aware of? Keep imagining until you find someone that you know God is asking you to be a neighbor to.
When you come across this person, consider if your response is more like that of the Levite and priest or that of the Samaritan. What excuses do you find yourself making so that you don’t have to love your neighbor as yourself? They’re not likely to be exactly like those of the Levite or priest, but maybe they’ll be something like:
“I’m too busy”
“But I don’t know how”
“That’s not my gift or calling”
“I know someone else will come and do it”
“Someone else can do this better than I can (that’s why we have pastors)”
“I’ve got to do for myself first”
“I’ll miss my game”
“She doesn’t deserve it”
“No one ever stops and helps me”
“It’s not my responsibility”
If you can’t find one person in your imagination whom God is asking you to love as a neighbor, then stay tuned: He’ll probably send you more than one today in real life.
If you need a little more inspiration and encouragement to love your neighbor as yourself, remember that you’re also all in this story in another, more dramatic way. For, you see, each of you is the man who fell among thieves, was stripped, wounded, and left for dead. Each of you is also the person in desperate need of help.
And the Good Samaritan in your life is Jesus Christ, who had compassion on you – when your relationship with God was stolen by sin, when you were stripped of your human dignity, and when you were dead in your sins before God.
But Jesus Christ chose to become your neighbor: He moved into your life, out of love, even when you were helpless and unlovable. He had compassion on all your sins and weaknesses, and He has offered you His love to heal you.
And now Jesus, who acted as your neighbor, says to you all: Go and do likewise.
Prayer: Father, thank You for sending Your Son to love me as Himself, when I was stripped and wounded and left for dead. By Your love, in sending Your Son, and by His love in coming to me, may I go and love those you have placed in my life today. Amen.
Point for Meditation: Make sure you have spent adequate time meditating on your daily life and the opportunities to love others.
Resolution: I resolve to seek and find one way today to love my neighbor as myself.
© 2013 Fr. Charles Erlandson
Category: Give Us This Day