Over the next few weeks, I’ll be addressing a handful of topics I believe are crying out to be discussed in a fresh, humble way within the Church, particularly here in the West. I’m calling this series “Conversations The Church Needs to Have.” This is by no means an exhaustive list, and I invite you to add your own ideas in the comments. My intention is not to dictate solutions, but to raise the questions themselves and invite my fellow leaders and Christ followers everywhere to begin to explore them in light of the changes happening to our world. The question I’m addressing this week is: Who is My Neighbor Now?
Jesus taught when it comes to living the life God wants for you, everything you need to know can be pretty much summed up by these two simple directives:
- Love God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength; and
- Love your neighbor as much as you love yourself.
Hearing Jesus point to these directives on one occasion, someone asked him: “Who is my neighbor?” Jesus responded by telling the classic story of the Good Samaritan. You can read the story yourself by clicking here. Two important things to note by way of context in the story:
- Jews and Samaritans largely hated one another. The Jews of the time, in particular, saw the Samaritans as half-breeds, forsakers of God’s command to remain set apart from other nations, and therefore worthy of contempt.
- Jewish priests and scribes of the time were considered the most religious (and ostensibly, therefore, the most holy) of all the people in the land.
Jesus’ story illustrates his bold assertion that loving your neighbor means loving the “other” ~ that is, the one who is not of your tribe, the one who is not like you, the one you think of as an enemy, the one you consider worthy of contempt.
Each year, the world gets a little smaller. Through technology, world markets, and population growth, more and more people of different tribes and often oppositional worldviews are getting pressed closer and closer together. We can’t distance ourselves from those unlike us as we once did. We can’t make believe we are safe across an ocean anymore from those who say they hate us and want us dead.
In this brave, new, shrinking world, I think Christ followers need to begin having fresh conversations around the question, “Who is my neighbor now, and what does it look like for me to love him?”
What do you think?