by Sandy Kirby Quandt
If someone asked who our neighbor is, what would we say?
Is our neighbor the person next door, across the hall, down the street? Maybe our neighbors are the people in our development, in our school, in our city, state, country. Perhaps we’d enlarge our circle to include people outside our borders as our neighbor.
On the day Jesus sat on a hillside and delivered what we call the Sermon on the Mount to his listeners he told them, “You have heard that it used to be said, ‘You shall love your neighbor’, and ‘hate your enemy’, but I tell you, love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Heavenly Father. For he makes the sun rise upon evil men as well as good, and he sends his rain upon honest and dishonest men alike.” ( Matthew 5:43-45 Phillips)
Apparently, the Scribes of the day added that bit about “hate your enemies”, because if you search, you’ll not find a Bible verse that tells us to hate our enemies. When God said his people were to love their neighbor as themselves, seems the Pharisees interpreted that to refer only to those who loved them in return.
They defined neighbor as someone of the same nationality and faith. Guess it seemed right to them in an if/then kind of way. If they love their neighbor whom they define as someone like them, then it makes sense to hate those who are not like them.
One day an expert in the Law asked Jesus what he must do to be sure of eternal life. (Luke 10:25-37) Jesus answered the man’s question with a question. “What does the Law say?”
The man replied, “The Law says, ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind’, and ‘your neighbor as yourself.’”
The man questioned Jesus further. “Who is my neighbor?”
Jesus then told the story of the Samaritan who reached out at great expense to himself and cared for a man who was not of his faith or nationality. Someone who, according to the Jews at the time, would not be considered the Samaritan’s neighbor.
At the end of his parable Jesus asked which of the three men in his story had been a neighbor to the bandits’ victim? The man admitted the neighbor was the one who showed pity. To which Jesus told the man he was correct, and to go and do the same.
In this story Jesus tells us if we belong to him, then we are to be a reflection of his love to those around us. And we are to love all kinds of people no matter their nationality or race.
That may not always be an easy thing to do, but it is what Christ expects from those he calls his own.
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If you love only those who love you, what good is that? Even scoundrels do that much. If you are friendly only to your friends, how are you different from anyone else? Even the heathen do that. But you are to be perfect, even as your Father in heaven is perfect. Matthew 5:46-48 (TLB)
I wish you well,
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