Beginning of the week.
Opportunity to put yesterday’s message into practice out where I work and associate with others.
Do I even remember yesterday’s message?
Yes. Asking the wrong question.
Who is my neighbor?
I have heard, and even said myself, that there are no stupid questions. Yesterday the speaker at my corporate worship service reminded me of that as he brought a message about “The Good Samaritan.” He pointed out that the teacher of the law who approached Jesus to check out whether he was on track with his doctrine and teaching asked a wrong question. Put more clearly, he asked a question with a wrong motive. While asking “who is my neighbor” might seem an innocent and obvious question, it is more likely that he was really wanting to know: who isn’t my neighbor? Who don’t I have to care about? Is there anyone that I can cross off my list? Anyone I can ignore? Anyone I am not responsible for? Anyone I don’t have to love? Anyone I don’t have to forgive?
And I believe Jesus would say, “No.” I believe that Jesus would wish that we would look out over the multitudes and be moved with compassion, just as he was.
I just recently began a study of the Sermon on the Mount. Matthew records that when Jesus saw the crowds he went up the mountain with his disciples, he sat down, and he began to teach. The teaching that follows begins with what we commonly refer to as The Beatitudes. Reading through this list of unusual attributes and their promised blessing and grace, it occurred to me that quite possibly Jesus came up with each of these as his eyes scanned the crowd. He saw a clearly destitute family, devoid of earthly treasures eagerly seeking to hear his teaching. He saw the tears of a woman recently widowed and alone. He saw the kindness of men as they helped a cripple move closer so he could hear and not be trampled on by the crowd. He saw a man seeking to settle a dispute between two others. He looked out at the earnest and eager ones who had left so much behind to follow him unreservedly. And his heart ached because he knew the road they chose in following him would not be easy but would be fraught with chastisement, persecution, and for many death.
When we walk through Walmart do we see our neighbors or just people out to steal our bargain or place in the shortest and fastest checkout lane? How quickly do we judge the driver who cuts us off without considering what tragedy he or she may be facing? As we’re checking out at the grocery do we click our tongues when the woman in front of us with four stair-step children pulls out her WIC card or foodstamps? When we see someone with a different skin tone, speaking a different language, wearing foreign garb or head coverings do we give them a wide berth and hold tighter to our purses and children?
Really, who isn’t my neighbor?
If there is any encouragement in Christ, any consolation from love, any sharing in the Spirit, any compassion and sympathy, make my joy complete: be of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility regard others as better than yourselves. Let each of you look not to your own interests, but to the interests of others. Let this same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus, (Philippians 2:1-5, NRSV)