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Who Is My Neighbor?


Neal Horsley

The man came to Jesus and asked Him, "Who is my neighbor?" No Jew could ignore the importance of that question. After the Great Commandment, "love the Lord our God with all your heart and all your soul and all your mind," the second was like unto it: "love your neighbor as yourself." (Luke 10:27 ) The man had to ask Jesus to define his neighbor because unless he knew his "neighbor," he could not possibly love him.

Today people don't think about the question that was asked Jesus that day so long ago. Everybody knows who our neighbor is. If there is any doubt, all we have to do is open a dictionary and we'll find our definition: "a person who lives near another…a fellow man; as, love thy neighbor…any person…" (Webster's Unabridged).

Problem is Jesus Christ did not define neighbor the way the dictionary does. One of the fundamental causes of our social disintegration can be traced to the fact that people do not understand how Jesus defined neighbor. Not only did Jesus' definition of neighbor not make it into our dictionaries, neither did it make it into our churches or our hearts. To prove what I'm saying, ask people who call themselves Christians how they define neighbor and they will give you the dictionary definition, not Jesus' definition. And the name of Jesus is blasphemed today because of it.

When asked, "Who is my neighbor?" Jesus defined the word, not by looking in a dictionary, but by telling a story, a story about a Good Samaritan. It is a story so well known that hardly anyone actually thinks about the meaning of the story anymore. Like Little Red Riding Hood and Chicken Little and Humpty Dumpty, the story Jesus told has become a part of our folk lore and like much of our folk lore the original meaning of the story has been utterly forgotten by us folks.

Jesus did not say our neighbor was the person who lived near us, Jesus did not say our neighbor was everyone or anyone who lived on the planet. Jesus said our neighbor was the person dying in the ditch. Jesus did everything words can do to explain it was that dying person who qualified for the name "neighbor." Further, Jesus made it clear that the only person who loved their neighbor was the person who stopped and helped that person dying in the ditch. Jesus concluded the story by defining who did not love their neighbor.

The Priest who refused to stop and help the person dying in the ditch did not love their neighbor. Neither did the Levite on his way to church (no doubt to minister and worship there). By ignoring the person dying in the ditch, the Priest and Levite became examples of people who do not love their neighbor, examples in whose footsteps most of us "Christians" follow today.

Babies being slaughtered in the ditch of this nation by decree of the government of the USA and the will of their mothers are our neighbors today. The fact that we walk by them as they are dying proves conclusively that you and I care no more about our neighbor or the Word of God than did the priest and Levite who walked by the man dying in the ditch so long ago. May we find the grace to repent of the confusion we have caused and the death we have collaborated in through our ignorance of the people dying. May God grant us the grace to love our neighbor.

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