By Beth Bostrom
University of Miami Wesley Foundation, Miami, FL
First, read Luke 10:30-37
After nearly six years in this house, I know one set of my neighbors. I am acquainted with another set, and have had awkward conversations with still a third household.
In talking to friends, I find it is not necessarily uncommon to be disconnected from your neighbors. In this story, a lawyer who asked how he could enter the Kingdom of Heaven has learned that loving God and his neighbor are at the core of Christ’s gospel. If we do not know or trust our neighbors, how are we to love them?
My favorite reflection on this passage is a sermon by Martin Luther King, Jr. entitled “On Being a Good Neighbor,” found in his sermon anthology The Strength to Love. In this sermon, Dr. King points to Christ’s call to universal altruism toward our neighbors – regardless of race, religion, nationality.
I would add gender, education level, economic status, age, physical ability level, mental health, relationship status, and so on. Dr. King expounds upon the dangerous altruism shown by the Samaritan – caring personally and financially for a man of a different tribe, at a notorious bend in a road infamous for attacks.
Finally, Dr. King points out the excessive altruism of the Samaritan. Not only does the Samaritan get his hands dirty offering first aid with the oil and wine in his bag, but he personally lifts the man onto his donkey, and takes him to an inn. He goes one step further, commissioning the innkeeper to continue the physical care for the wounded man, offering payment for all the expenses.
How many of us would go to these lengths to care for a stranger? Particularly a stranger who is not like us, not from our beloved country or ancestry or belief system?
So many times, Jesus challenges us to stretch ourselves in love of God and God’s (diverse, wounded, vulnerable, beautiful) children. We find ourselves bewildered, uncomfortable, frustrated, uncertain… but even in those moments, the Spirit moves us toward the good work of love.
At the end of his sermon, Dr. King challenges himself saying, “I must not ignore the wounded man on life’s Jericho Road, because he is part of me and I am part of him. His agony diminishes me, and his salvation enlarges me.” Our continual challenge is to see the belovedness of our unknown neighbors and to reflect Christ’s loving grace and healing in the world.
The lawyer asked Jesus, “Who is my neighbor?,” and instead Jesus answered the question, “How can I be a loving neighbor?”
Prayer: Loving God, even as we wonder who our neighbor is, transform us into a loving, generous, patient neighbor ourselves. You have made us in your image, and you are love. Help us to look with love upon those who are different than us. Guide as we wrestle with the really difficult questions that come with this call to love. Heal in us the places of pain, anger, and fear that prevent us from truly loving our neighbors, from truly loving you, O God. Continue to work in us through grace, pulling us ever toward the perfection of love. Amen.
- The Samaritan was the least likely of the travelers to stop and care for an attack victim. Who are the least likely neighbors in our lives today?
- What are the wounds we are called by Christ to bind up?
- The Samaritan used common items like oil and wine to care for the wounded man. What common and overlooked resources in our lives could be used to care for others?