Posted Jul 13, 2019 at 6:00 AM
When I meet with people I will be confirming or receiving into the church, I always ask this question: “What is your favorite Bible passage?” Some answer with “Psalm 23″, or “Martha and Mary” or “David and Goliath” or a host of other possibilities.
But the most frequent answer is “The Good Samaritan.”
Here is a summary of that story from Luke’s Gospel. A lawyer asks Jesus, “What must I do to inherit eternal life?” And then they have a discussion about loving God and neighbor. The lawyer asks, “Who is my neighbor?” Jesus responds with a story about a man who was robbed and left to die in a ditch. Two people, including a priest, pass him by. But a Samaritan (a foreigner) stopped, bandaged his wounds, brought him to an inn and paid for his lodging and offered to pay more when he returned from his trip.
At the end of the story, Jesus poses a question to the lawyer. Most versions of the Bible translate the question in this way. “Which of these three, do you think, was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?” Some theologians say a better translation would be, “Which of these three, do you think, became a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?”
For Jesus, neighbor does not mean geographic proximity. Neighbor is someone you “become.”
Neighbor is not a state of place. It is a state of being. It is a way of being in the world.
Could it be so many have this as their favorite Bible story because deep in our souls we long for compassion? We long to become compassionate people, and we want a faith that is not abstract.
Recently I heard a very successful college basketball coach speak at the Springfield Rotary. He said, “You know, for a long time I admired aggressive, assertive people who climbed to the very top of their professions. Now I admire people who are kind.”
Where in your life are you feeling called to be kind? How are you being invited to become a neighbor?
As we hear reports of inhumane confinement for migrants at our border looking for asylum, how can we become a neighbor?
When Jesus asked the lawyer the question which of the three became a neighbor, he answered, “The one who showed him mercy.”
Jesus said to him, “Go and do likewise.”