Friday Reflection – May 10, 2019

From The Rev. Amy Larsen, Deacon, St. James, Sonora 
 
Who are our neighbors?
 
 The answer to this question changes with one’s perspective.
 
Growing up in a small town in Vermont where my parents knew everyone, I learned our neighbor was anyone who lived within the same town. As I grew up and my world expanded neighbors became anyone who had lived in the state of Vermont and could prove that their families had been there for at least three generations. My grandfather’s tribe believed that every living creature and all of creation are our neighbors. Today our politicians want us to believe our neighbors are only white Anglo-Saxons with the correct papers. So, who does Jesus say our neighbors are?
 
In the Parable of the Good Samaritan, Jesus turns our understanding of neighbor upside down. (Luke 10:25). In Luke the scribes ask, “Who is my neighbor?” We often respond to that question by saying: “My neighbors are all the people I am living with on this earth, especially the sick, the hungry, the dying, and all who are in need.” But this is not what Jesus says. Jesus changes the definition of neighbor from a location, religion or race, into a state of mind, away of behaving.
 
When Jesus tells the story of the good Samaritan (see Luke 10:29-37) to answer the question “Who is my neighbor?” he shows that the neighbor is not the person from your religion when he has the priest and Levite pass him by. He ends by asking: “Which … do you think, proved himself a neighbor to the man who fell into the bandits’ hands?” Jesus makes clear that the neighbor is not the poor man lying on the side of the street, stripped, beaten, and half dead. The neighbor is not the religious trained person, the priest or Levite but the Samaritan who crossed the road, “bandaged his wounds, pouring oil and wine on them … lifted him onto his own mount and took him to an inn and looked after him. The Samaritan being the foreigner who was the one least likely to have shown compassion for the man. Samaritans were considered a lower class of people by the Jews since they had intermarried with non-Jews and did not keep all the law. They worship God in a different temple than the Jews. Therefore, Jews would have nothing to do with them. The neighbor is the one who can put his love for others into action. Jesus shows that” My neighbor is the one who crosses the road for me!” Yet perhaps the question would be better stated not as who is my neighbor but, to whom can I be a neighbor?
 
Remember the saying: “I am me because of we. What hurts you hurts me.”

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