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Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Love Your Neighbor

In Luke 10 a lawyer asks Jesus how to get eternal life. Jesus answers with a question, the answer to which is "Love God and love your neighbor." Jesus agrees. And the lawyer asks a lawyer question. "Ummm, well, see, here's the thing. Who is my neighbor?" Typical. Mincing words. It's here that we get Jesus's famous "Parable of the Good Samaritan". You remember that one. A guy is beat up by robbers. His "good friends" a priest and a Levite pass by, but a "hated" Samaritan helps him out. "Which of these three, do you think, proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell among the robbers?" The lawyer got it. "Love your neighbor" does not refer to "the folks that live on either side of me." So, we have a much better defined explanation of "neighbor". It would appear to mean "anyone with whom you come in contact." Got it.

It strikes me that we are often "lawyers" when it comes to questions of obedience. We read, "Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God." (1 Cor 6:9-10) and end up asking, "Yes, but what do you mean by arsenokoitēs? Maybe it's not men who lie with a male as with a female. Maybe it's ... oh, I don't know ... an obscure reference to pedophiles. Or temple prostitutes. Or something else rather than what it says." Lawyer talk. We read, "Sell your possessions, and give to the needy." (Luke 12:33) "Oh," the lawyer in us says, "that doesn't mean we shouldn't own stuff. It means we should be generous ... while we accumulate as much wealth and possessions we can for ourselves ... oh, and our families, of course, to be sure. But not actually give anything up because, after all, that wouldn't make sense." Even while Jesus is saying, "Take care, and be on your guard against all covetousness, for one's life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions." (Luke 12:15) So we debate about whether 10% is too much to ask and whether or not it's okay to be rich as long as we give something away and "just how rich is rich?". Lawyer talk.

On the question of "Love your neighbor", though, it seems to me that these days there is one question that is rarely asked. Do you know your neighbor? Let's just start with the "folks that live next to you" neighbors. I'm amazed how distant we've become in our communities from our very next door neighbors, let alone the whole "whoever you come in contact with" types. We might debate, as the lawyer did, what constitutes "neighbor", but I think it's pretty clear that "I don't even know them" doesn't qualify as "love your neighbor". On this question many of us have never arrived at the "lawyer talk" phase. We've just ignored the question. That doesn't bode well for us.

It should be noted that among those who are your neighbors you must always include your spouse, your children, your family ... you know, that group of people. The ones you are supposed to love.

1 comment:

Bob said...

how many remember the cartoon " the tick" ? he was a warm hearted super hero, but not very bright. well one day he was being interviewed and the reporter asked, Is it true that you are so strong that you could destroy the world? he said, yea that's true, but that's where i keep all my stuff. and while your here i just want to say: you bad guys , knock off all that Evil..
so even super hero's can be a little possessive. i think the point is that if we really LOVE the question of who is our neighbor, will take care of itself. love will always find someone to care for. unfortunately we have more stuff, then love.