Written by Stephanie Bowman, Associate Chaplain, Felician Village Mission Department
Jesus said the greatest commandment was to love God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength, and love our neighbor as we love ourselves. Who is our neighbor and how exactly are we called to love them? In the parable of the Good Samaritan (read Luke 10:25-37 for the full story), Jesus stretches the boundaries of what it means to be a neighbor. In Jesus’ day, Jews despised Samaritans. Yet, in this story, Jesus lifts up a Samaritan as an example of a good neighbor who showed compassion and mercy for a stranger.
We may not understand the rift between Jews and Samaritans, but we have plenty of divisions in our world today that prove how challenging it can be to love others. We may have trouble loving our neighbors who think and believe differently than us about the Covid vaccine and mask mandates, or who have different political ideas than we do. We may not understand our neighbors who come from a different cultural background or who grew up in a different faith tradition. We may have neighbors who try our patience, or whom we just have difficulty getting along with. We can all think of neighbors we struggle to love as we love ourselves. The Samaritan stopped to care for the injured man because he was “moved with compassion,” which literally means to “suffer with.” Jesus says that showing mercy and compassion to others is the key to being a neighbor and at the end of the story we are told to “go and do likewise.”
Who is your neighbor? It goes beyond the people we like and choose to spend time with. Jesus calls us to show compassion for all people, even the neighbors we struggle to like—the ones we would cross the road (or the hallway!) to avoid. How can we begin to see those we struggle to like as a neighbor? Stay tuned next month for more ideas on what it means to be a neighbor.