In the 12th chapter of Luke, Jesus tells a group of listeners that they should love their neighbors as themselves.
“Who is my neighbor?” Jesus is asked.
Jesus then proceeds to tell the story of the Good Samaritan.
There are many points made in this short story (as in all Jesus’ stories). I think one of the most interesting things that happens in this situation, though, is that Jesus does not answer the question. His story does not address “who is my neighbor?” but takes the conversation to a new topic that Jesus wanted to address.
Jesus was asked this kind of question many times. We continue to ask these questions.
The question was not simply, “Who is my neighbor?” The question was, “Where is the line?” The man was asking Jesus how far he had to go to please God.
“Do I have to love the person two doors down, or just my immediate neighbor?”
“When is it enough?”
“How many times must I forgive?”
“How far can I go before my behavior is officially sin.”
“Haven’t I loved enough?”
Haven’t I served enough?”
“What must I do to inherit eternal life?”
Jesus’ failure to directly address the question speaks volumes. By His silence, He is saying, “That is the wrong question. Your attention is in the wrong place. There is no line and no limit.”
The story of the Good Samaritan addresses how to be a loving neighbor. Neighborly behavior is sacrificial and incredibly caring. By using the character of the Samaritan, Jesus seems to be saying, “There are no boundaries to being a neighbor.”
In this world that we live, there are even fewer boundaries. We are often as aware of the events taking place on the other side of the globe as we are of things in our own city. We have instantaneous communication and on-demand information. Not only am I aware of the man who has been mugged who I come upon in the street, I am now aware of the two million people who live on less than $1 per day. I am aware of the population of Haiti that has been decimated by numerous disasters. I am aware of the 27,000 children who die every day because of nutrition related problems.
I think that Jesus would challenge us today that we should not be asking who we are responsible to help, we should be behaving as a neighbor to every single person we can.
In our society of global awareness, where our everyday action have a global impact, we have a global responsibility.
My neighbor is you. My neighbor is in Africa. My neighbor is in India.