Who Is My Neighbor?

A valid question that I’ve asked many times before this past Sunday. Little did I know a question seemingly so safe would be blown out of the water. However, in my quest to change the world, (yep, I’m still holding onto that idea) it’s critical to my mission. All it took was a bullet point in a sermon to explain this simple misconception I had about Luke 10. Here’s how it’ll help change the world.

The question has context. This may seem plain, but we need to remember that the Bible, as with every piece of literature has a social context. This question here is no different. The question is asked of Jesus by a lawyer seeking self-justification. The answer, he believes, will prove that he is upholding the moral code to the nth degree. He is trying to show that his obedience to the law was on par with that of the Pharisees and Sadducees, or the religious elites of the day. However, in the attempt, what we see is a man trying to get by on doing the least possible. He is hoping that Jesus will answer his question plainly so that he and generations to come would know exactly only to whom we need to be nice. Unfortunately for him and us, we get no such simplicity. Instead, there is a parable waiting on the other end.

A Samaritan’s deed. Sorry to you Biblical scholars out there, but what’s significant about the story itself is the fact that a Samaritan (worse than a Gentile because of their half-Jew-half-Gentile lineage) helped out a Jew. Jews hated the Samaritans because they represented the watering down of God’s people. They represented everything evil about the times of captivity, harkened to a time darker than many Jews cared to imagine or remember. The Samaritans were essentially the bastards of society in those days.

A response. The crux of this story isn’t the Jew, the passersby or the Samaritan. It isn’t the guys who mug the Jew. The tipping point, what I’ve missed all along is the question that follows the story. What starts as “And who is my neighbor?” is transformed into “Which of these three, do you think, proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell among the robbers?” In that rewording, you see heart change. You see a world of difference. No longer is it a question of who we can ignore, but rather if we’re being a neighbor ourselves. The focus has been turned round till it’s a ray of sunshine on the dark spots of our heart. This difference of perspective moves away from the minimum and pushes us toward excellence. This is world change.

Simply, the world cannot change without lives being transformed. And this, this is what the Parable of the Good Samaritan is about; this world changing transformation is what the Bible is about. The Bible and what I’m striving after this year are not a list of rules or restrictions. What they are are a new framework to view this life. They are the opportunity of a lifetime to pull ourselves and the worlds around us up by the bootstraps and build a brighter today and future. They are the hope for which we’ve been longing forever. It is the cry of our hearts. The coincidence is, it’s been right in front of our faces all this time. So I ask you, which of you, though maybe you consider yourself a modern Samaritan, will prove to be a neighbor this day?