In Luke 10, a very snooty lawyer wanted to challenge Jesus and asked him what he needed to do to inherit eternal life. Jesus responded by asking him what the law said to which the lawyer responded – Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and to love your neighbor as yourself. After quoting the law, the same snooty lawyer asked Jesus the definition of who his neighbor was and I would suggest that this is a question we have been asking Jesus ever since, perhaps for different reasons, but we ask nevertheless.
We often believe that loving our neighbor entails loving those who are just like us, perhaps those who are of the same ethnicity or social -economic background. Often our neighbors include family members, friends and those we like to be around. These are all well and good, but Jesus’ response to the lawyer’s questions shows that we have to expand the meaning of the concept ‘neighbor,’ to include those who are not like us. Perhaps it includes those that we cannot stand to be around. It includes those who pose a threat to our well-being, our family, and our nation and it includes those that we have oppressed and even those we have been oppressed by. It includes those in far off lands like Abu Dhabi and those who live right next door. Jesus says we are to love them without pretense and without condition in the same way that we love ourselves.
Next time we think about giving someone a cold shoulder, cheating someone out of their earnings, hurting someone or ignoring someone’s needs, let us ask ourselves this question, “Is this the way I would want to be treated if I were in the same situation?” I can guarantee you that this was the question the Good Samaritan asked himself the day he saw a Jew, his enemy, lying on a road left for dead. He did not hesitate to put his own prejudices and fears behind him, because he knew that if he was caught in the same situation, this was what he would want someone else to do.
Let us begin to treat one another and love one another with the same unsurpassable worth and value that we see in ourselves.