“Don’t forget to show hospitality to strangers, for some who have done this have entertained angels without realizing it!” – Hebrews 13:2.
The parable of the good Samaritan is more than a feel good story or a passage of scripture to reflect on from time to time. It clarifies how we should treat those we meet in life’s journey, illustrates how we should deal with those who challenge us and defines who we should view as our neighbors. There should be nobody that is a stranger to compassion, help and love.
It could be a person you meet on the street, or somebody that just moved in on your block. It could be a family vacationing for a week, or a person from another country that has just moved to Florida. It could be somebody who has no use for Christianity or it could be somebody who is a complete stranger to God’s love and grace. It could be a young couple who wears different clothes and speaks in a different way than you do. But they all have something in common: they all could be our neighbors.
The parable of the good Samaritan cautions us against labeling or arbitrarily deciding who is our neighbor. By all rights, the Samaritan is the last of three that should have helped the wounded person, yet he did. Jesus tells the lawyer and us to “go and do the same.” Be a neighbor to those you see differently, even when they are different from ourselves; even when we have to face our prejudices, even when they are difficult people to treat with compassion, and even when they are strangers and outsiders. When the Bible tells us to love our neighbor as ourselves, it does not mean only those in our inner circle of friends and relatives. God expects us to treat everyone with love, respect, tolerance and fairness. And sometime that can be very difficult.
Difficult or not we are commanded to love neighbors as ourselves which means coming to their aid when they are in need. More generally, it means having a loving attitude towards them, overcoming the prejudices held against them, taking the initiative in making contact, as Jesus did with the Samaritan woman, so as to break through any walls between us. Loving others as Jesus did with the Samaritan who was the only one of ten healed lepers to show his gratitude (Luke 17:11-19).
So here is the challenge. How big is your circle of neighbors? Is it made up of a few close friends and a few additional acquaintances? I want to challenge each of you to broaden your definition of a neighbor, and what we can do to help. Because somewhere out there is a neighbor who needs what you have.
- Think of a time when you have been welcomed. Where were you? What did you feel and why? Who contributed to your experience?
- Think of a time when you have not been welcomed or felt like you did not belong. Where were you? What did you feel and why? Who contributed to your experience?
- What steps could you take to find more opportunities to hear the voices of the “neighbors” within your community?
- What practical steps could you take to serve our neighbors in your community?