Wednesday, 08 November 2017 10:05

Whose Neighbor Am I?

Written by  Sam Whatley
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Recently I visited an elderly friend (let’s call her Adeline) in a well-to-do suburb. Adeline is a widow, living alone in a four-bedroom two-story home. Being over 85, she seldom trudges up the fifteen steps to the upper floor. But she is not really alone. Adeline has neighbors.  



More than six families on her street have taken her on as a project. Every day someone visits her; someone calls; and someone cooks and brings over more food than she can eat. They are not relatives and only one (that I know of) is a member of her church. They are just folks who have come to love and care for her as she has loved them the past 36 years.


Several years ago, Adeline realized she was getting tired while talking to a neighbor by the street. She went inside and brought out a chair to sit in. She left the chair out there so she could use it again. The neighbor thought this was a good idea and brought over another chair. Another neighbor found wrought iron chairs and a table on sale and brought them over. Someone found an old glider swing, painted it, and set it up on the pine straw. Now anytime Adeline sits in her yard, someone on her street will stop what they are doing and come over to visit. They jokingly call that part of her yard The Park.


That’s love in action. It seems foreign in our post-front porch society, where everyone seems insulated indoors and enthralled with TVs, computers, and hand-held devices. But my friend and her neighbors are showing us that it is still possible.


What does the Bible say about neighbors? In the Gospel of Luke (Chapter 10) Jesus was asked by an expert in the law what was required for one to inherit eternal life.


 “What is written in the Law?” he replied. “How do you read it?”


He answered: “‘Love the Lord your God with all our heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind” and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’”


“You have answered correctly,” Jesus replied. “Do this and you will live.”


But he wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” (Luke 10:25-28)


Jesus answers the question by telling him a story that we call the Parable of the Good Samaritan. The parable illustrates that anyone and everyone, even those with whom we cannot relate, are our neighbors. And this is a powerful truth. It breaks down every barrier of race, creed, and nationality. However, I wonder if we, as followers of Jesus, have allowed this analogy to overshadow the obvious fact that our neighbors are also the folks who live in our neighborhood.


In the parable, the Samaritan traveler rescued a man who was robbed, beaten, and left half-dead. Two Jewish holy men had ignored the victim, but not the Samaritan. He gave him medical attention and took him to an inn. There he paid for his food and shelter for days and offered to pay more when he returned.


At the end of the story Jesus asked, “Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?”


The expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him.”


Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.” (Luke 10:36-37)


Perhaps we should ask, “Whose neighbor, am I?” The people who live near us would say we are their neighbors. But do we act like their neighbors? Do we even know who they are?


I support foreign missions, home missions, disaster relief, and praying for the persecuted church. All of these people are my neighbors. But the elderly man across the street and the young family next door are my neighbors too. We need to take the time to get acquainted with those who live around us. We need to speak to them, care for them, and pray for them.


The weather is turning colder. Adeline’s neighbors are digging a fire pit so they can keep meeting outside. How creative.


How can we show God’s love to our neighbors?



**Sam Whatley’s latest book, Ponder Anew, is now available at the Frazer Bookstore located inside Frazer Memorial UMC.




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