Okay Then, Who is My Neighbor?
“Okay then, who is my neighbor?”
That’s the question an expert in the Law of Moses asks Jesus during an exchange the two are having in the Gospel of Luke. This law expert (think of him as a Bible Scholar) has just asked Jesus, “What must I do to inherit eternal life?” Jesus answers him by asking another question: “what is written in the law?” The law expert is able to cite two different commandments: Love the Lord your God will all your heart, soul, strength, and mind” (Deuteronomy 6:5 for those who are interested) and also, “love your neighbor as you love yourself” (Leviticus 19:18). Jesus says he is correct: do these things and there will be eternal life.
But then we get back to the original question: “So, uh, well, who IS my neighbor?” The law expert wants it spell out so he know who he has to love and who he doesn’t have to worry about. He wants clear lines drawn and set boundaries. Jesus gives him neither. Instead, he tells one of the greatest stories in the history of literature: the parable of the “Good Samaritan.” I’m guessing you know it already. If you’d like a refresher, check out Luke 15:30-37. We often get hung up on the “what?” question, as in “what are we supposed to do?” When you look at the context of the story, however, you see that the important question is “Who?” as in, “Who is my neighbor?” Jesus’s story gives an answer: everybody is our neighbor. There are no lines, no boundaries, no limits. See someone else with a pulse? They are your neighbor.
As I’ve said before, the tactics and methods of loving your neighbor can change depending on the situation you are in, but the goal doesn’t change.
These days we very well might have our neighbor’s very lives in our hands…or more specifically in our mouths. We don’t know who has the COVID-19 virus: you might have it and not show any symptoms at all. Right now, we can love our neighbor by staying home as much as possible and by wearing a mask when we have to go out. Wearing a mask fits this story perfectly, because masks don’t protect us from the virus…they protect the people around us if we have it. Wearing a mask is one of the best ways to love your neighbor as yourself right now. If you can wear one, I encourage you to do so! Other ways Faith Lutheran is loving our neighbor(s) is to not gather in-person for worship. As I have said, I wish we could! But we are staying apart in order to protect each other and everyone else we meet.
It’s not easy, believe me! I don’t particularly like wearing a mask: they are stuffy, stifling, and fog up your glasses. But it’s what we are called to do. I know you are a group of people who loves and cares for your family, your friends, your neighbors, and your world: let’s care for everyone by covering up and keeping smart. May God bless and keep you all.