By Lu Mountenay of Independence, MO, USA
…he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” Jesus replied, “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell into the hands of robbers, who stripped him, beat him, and went away, leaving him half dead. Now by chance a priest was going down that road; and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan while traveling came near him; and when he saw him, he was moved with pity. He went to him and bandaged his wounds, having poured oil and wine on them. Then he put him on his own animal, brought him to an inn, and took care of him. —Luke 10:29–34 NRSV, emphasis added
Reread the scripture passage, and ask yourself the same question, “And who is my neighbor?” It would have been easier for Jesus to answer, “Anybody and everybody.” But sometimes the short, simple answer is not always the clearest. It does not challenge us to use our imagination and put us in the place of the oppressed or the one who shows mercy. Therefore—the parable.
Our neighbor is the person who lives next door and the person we meet while traveling far from home. Our neighbor is the person from whom we avert our eyes who lives under the expressway bridge or one of the unseen, nameless poor in an underdeveloped country. Knowing that others have passed them by—having viewed them unworthy of help—is no excuse for us to do the same.
Often I have hesitated to give to a stranger. I have questioned whether it would help or hinder the one who asks. I have wondered if the people around me would pity or mock me for being a pushover. It may be embarrassing, awkward, and perhaps even foolish, but I never regret when I decide to give. I thank God for letting mercy move me to action.
Prayer for Peace
Generous God, take us beyond our first reaction to a plea for mercy. Let us pause until we are moved to action—either on the spot or as part of a well-thought-out plan for action. Help us follow through with our plans to share peace and justice.
Spiritual Practice: Honoring the Worth of All Persons
Read Psalm 139:13–18. After reading, sit quietly and let the words sink deeply into your mind, heart, and body. What thoughts and feelings do you have about being “fearfully and wonderfully made”?
Sense the intimate knowledge and love God has for you and everyone. Be aware of the sacred worth of each person. Weep with God over the soul-wounding forces and events that rob people of dignity and worth. How does God invite you to notice, protect, heal, and affirm the spiritual identity of all God’s beloved people today? Pray for God’s compassion.
Today, God, I will ask not only, “Who is my neighbor?” but also, “How can I help?”