“The Samaritan went to him and bandaged his wounds, tending them with oil and wine. Then he placed the wounded man on his own donkey, took him to an inn, and took care of him. The next day, he took two full days’ worth of wages and gave them to the innkeeper. He said, ‘Take care of him, and when I return, I will pay you back for any additional costs.’ What do you think? Which one of these three was a neighbor to the man who encountered thieves?”
Then the legal expert said, “The one who demonstrated mercy toward him.”
Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.”Luke 10:34-37
They coffee shop is busy today. I’m glad for this. With all of the construction in the 100 block of Cedar Ave, downtown, I am worried about these small business. So I’m grateful that it’s full.
There are at least 3 separate, lively conversations going on right now. A family group of 8 is seated to my right, and they are busy catching up on the family news. There are two women having an intense conversation kitty-corner from me. Their conversation is punctuated with occasional bursts of laughter. And there are two retired men sitting in the comfy chairs.
There is also a pastor from another church in town working on a sermon just a table away from me. I have never met him, but I can spot another pastor at work a mile away.
Jesus’ question to the legal expert sits front and center in my mind today: “Which of these three was a neighbor…” The answer was simple: The one who showed mercy. But the question itself; it is kind of tricky.
The word “neighbor” implies a relationship. You can’t really be a “one-way neighbor.” The word implies that what we would do to support a neighbor, is also what the neighbor would do to support us. That’s what neighbors do, right? We watch each other’s houses when one of us is out of town on vacation. We take in each other’s mail. We let each other’s dogs out. We bring meals when there is a crisis, or when one is sick. Neighbors take care of each other.
That’s why it’s implied in our story that of course the Samaritan would take care of the injured traveler. Because even though they may or may not have actually know each other, at least the Samaritan knew that they were neighbors and that this is what we do.
Who is our neighbor?
It is the people God has called to be around us. It is these strangers in the coffee shop. It is the people in the aisle at the grocery store. It is the people who live in the homes around us. It is the people who live in the apartments downtown. It is the people who worship at other churches in town. It is the people who worship at the mosque. Our neighbors are people who are in the same political party as you…and the ones who are in the other one. It is the people who look similar to you AND the people who look different. It is the people who love like you do, and the ones who love differently.
I worry that in a polarized and divided society, when our social media newsfeeds are full of stories of quickly released anger, that maybe we forget who our neighbors are. Or, even worse, that we even have neighbors. We see evidence of this all of the time. The “norm” in our culture is that we divide. In this, the story of the Good Samaritan is a call to live counter-culturally.
The noise and buzz in the coffee shop is a pleasant reminder that neighbors together form a community. There is conversation. There is laughter.
It is how God has called us to live. Look around. See your neighbors. Love, and care for them…all of them.