Are you my neighbor?

Remember that old book from your childhood “Are You My Mother?” That poor little bird was asking everyone and everything he ran into if they were his mother. As all good children’s books end (except for Bambi which has left me scarred for life), he did finally find her.
Well I’ve been asking a similar question for a couple weeks now (not out loud of course, I don’t want to seem like I’ve completely lost my mind).
It all started a few weeks ago in our Sunday school class. We were talking about the Good Samaritan, loving our neighbor, who our neighbor is, and to what extent do you go to show that love.
Love thy neighbor…………….
So I ask. Are you my neighbor? I happen to know the names of the people that live in the first two houses to the north and south of me. They are my neighbors, right? I know two other families on my street but a few blocks down, they go to my church. They are my neighbors, right?
Most of us are Facebook official with 682 of our closest friends. Are they my neighbors? We follow 144 of them on Twitter; surely I would consider them my neighbor! I often see the same homeless guy at the river by my credit union. Is he my neighbor? The man in line behind me at the grocery store; is he my neighbor? The child from India whose face I saw on a sponsorship card, he surely isn’t my neighbor, right?
I think our modern technology is great, but I think it sometimes gives us a false sense of knowing and loving our “neighbor”, friends, and family. We’ll see a status and click “like” or if we’re really interested we might give a four word comment. Of course if it’s regarding a need or prayer request we do our spiritual duty by commenting with “praying”. Sometimes we’ll even throw in a few exclamation marks. But do we always actually take the time to literally pray when we say we do or even try to help by physically meeting their need.
But the fact that we saw the request, the status highlighting the moment of their day, or updated picture of their kids and pets makes us feel like we’ve taken part in their life that day. The real truth is that some people won’t ever write about their deepest need or spiritual hurt or heartbreak, etc. We don’t really know them at the level required to “love thy neighbor.” But we’ve spent at least 2 hours of our day in 10 minute increments with our faces glued to the computer or smartphone feeling good, like we’ve truly connected with others at some level. (Pat self on back here.)
Don’t get me wrong! It’s a great to be able to keep in touch in a way we never could have imagined before, with more people than we could have before; but it takes a certain level of connectivity to be able to truly love them.
In Luke 10 Jesus said to “Love your neighbor as yourself”; but a little further down in the text, when He’s telling the parable of the Good Samaritan, the individual that shows love to the man left to die in the street is clearly someone we wouldn’t normally think of as his neighbor.
This man had been beaten, stripped, robbed, abandoned, and left to die. A priest saw him, walked to the other side of the road and passed on by; then a Levite (a man from the tribe of Levi who would have typically been one to help the priests at the temple) walked on by. Two men that would have spent the majority of their days serving God harm this man by their pure neglect of him. But how could they be expected to help him, after all, was he their neighbor? He had been stripped so they couldn’t see his clothing to tell what social class he was in. What if someone came along as they were trying to help and assumed they had beaten this man? They couldn’t afford that hit to their reputation! Quite possibly he was beat beyond recognition to where they couldn’t even tell his nationality. He might have already been dead and it was a huge, time consuming ordeal in Jewish customs to purify themselves after they had touched a deceased person. Who has time for that?
Then here comes the Samaritan. Keep in mind that in this passage in Luke Jesus is answering questions from a Jewish lawyer. The Samaritans were not thought of too highly among the Jews. They would rather spit at each other than say hello. But Jesus chose to make the hero of the story someone that would have been looked down upon by the people listening.
The Samaritan picks up the broken man. Bandages his wounds. Takes him to a hotel. Stays and cares for him through the night. Pays the hotel manager two days worth of wages to cover costs involved. Leaves him under the care of the hotel and promises to return.
What an awesome picture of what Christ has done for us!! He picks us up in our broken state. He paid for our sins on the cross. He leaves us in the care of the Holy Spirit and the comfort of His Word. He promises to return for us! It gives me chills!
So who was the actual neighbor to this wounded man? The one who showed him love and compassion.
Now back to what’s been going on in my mind these past few weeks…….. Are you my neighbor? How can I possibly know who I’m supposed to be loving on and helping in this world of technology that can have me connected to thousands upon thousands of people and opportunities to help? I believe that’s where wisdom and the Holy Spirit come in. If you know of an opportunity to help and you have that tugging on your heart to do something then you should. But be very careful, the bible says in 1 Thessalonians 5:19 you can quench the tugging of the Holy Spirit on your heart just like pouring water on a fire. If you don’t fuel the fire by listening and acting on His urging eventually He’ll stop tugging until your heart is open again.
God may place us in a situation to help a man on the side of the road or help support a missionary overseas or He may have us sit on the front porch with our next door neighbor and comfort her in the loss of her mother. Opportunities to love our neighbor come in endless possible scenarios. It’s easy to be overwhelmed by all the stories we hear of people in need in one way or another to the place where we throw up our hands and say we can’t do it all. But I think the important thing is that we do something! We need to leave our hearts open to the leading of the Holy Spirit and do what we can to show God’s love to others through our actions!


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