Who's my neighbor? One simple question worth thinking about. Here's what I came up with after reading through the familiar story of The Good Samaritan. And it's not as easy as it seems.
My neighbor is anyone who I come across who has a need that I can meet.
Not a profound answer by any means. But one that got me thinking. Do I obey the command to love my neighbor as myself?
It seems that Jesus has in mind here a lifestyle of love focused on two things: awareness and action. A lifestyle of being on the lookout for those in need, and a lifestyle of intentional action to meet those needs.
Most of us fail to take action to meet people's needs because we aren't aware of their needs. In other words, we're so busy with our own lives, so captivated with our own needs, we fail to see the many needs of those around us.
In this parable, the Samaritan first saw the wounded man and had compassion on him. This is the first step, namely, being aware of the needs of those I come across and having compassion on them. So often I am more like the priest or the Levite who barely notices the wounded people in my path. The people who may not be physically wounded, but perhaps emotionally or spiritually. Am I aware of their needs?
Not only was the Samaritan aware of the wounded man's needs, he also took action to meet those needs. He took intentional action to practically meet the needs of this man. So must we. Indeed, the inference from this passage is plain: If we know the needs of others but refuse to respond to their needs, we are not loving our neighbor.
Are you aware of the needs of others? And are you taking action to meet those needs? I have to admit, this commandment is more radical than I ever imagined. In fact, it's impossible to keep this command--without Christ. Christ saw our greatest need and took action to meet our need by suffering on the cross in our place. Because of his death and resurrection, we can have the power (by his Spirit in us) to love the way he did. To sacrifice ourselves for the good of others and for the glory of God. So let us pray that we would love our neighbor today.