By Lindsay Few
The Parable of the Good Samaritan
And behold, a lawyer stood up to put him to the test, saying, “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?”
He said to him, “What is written in the Law? How do you read it?”
And he answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.”
And he said to him, “You have answered correctly; do this, and you will live.”
But he, desiring to justify himself, said to Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”
Jesus replied, “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and he fell among robbers, who stripped him and beat him and departed, leaving him half dead. Now by chance a priest was going down that road, and when he saw him he passed by on the other side. So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side.
But a Samaritan, as he journeyed, came to where he was, and when he saw him, he had compassion.
He went to him and bound up his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he set him on his own animal and brought him to an inn and took care of him. And the next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper, saying, ‘Take care of him, and whatever more you spend, I will repay you when I come back.’
Which of these three, do you think, proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell among the robbers?”
He said, “The one who showed him mercy.” And Jesus said to him, “You go, and do likewise.” Luke 10: 25-37
My neighbor brought a plate of her famous oatmeal chocolate chip cookies when we moved in. Before that, I had an idea that neighbors might do things like that. I must have seen it in a movie or something, but I grew up in the kind of neighborhood where the garage door opens before you pull into the driveway and closes as you get out of the car. I knew the neighbors had kids (though much younger me) - we could hear them in their backyard from time to time. I knew some of their names. But for the most part, the objective was to avoid contact and get on with doing homework, walking the dog, or checking the mail uninterrupted.
I’ve seen church look like my old neighborhood. We come in with our own burdens and stressors. We want the singing or the Word, but not the awkwardness and inconvenience of meeting new people; the discomfort of fumbling to remember names and navigate small talk when we’re just trying to get our church fix for the week. And it’s no secret some of us hate the meet and greet.
When church is like the closed garage door, we may feel safer or more in control of our experience. We know what to expect. But at the same time we miss out on huge parts of the community we’re made for. We miss the chance to support community members during hard times; the chance to ourselves be supported. To celebrate answered prayers. To “rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep.” (Rom. 12:15) The opportunity to interact with people who look or live a little differently; the opportunity for the world to grow a little smaller; more human.
It was a long, long way from the closed garage door to making time for the person on the other side of the fence or across the aisle in church. I have a long way to grow, but along the way, thank God I have shed some of the layers of the “my kingdom” mindset I started with.
From that experience I encourage you to look from where you are now toward the neighbor-hood Jesus described. Our hearts are made to look beyond our self and family unit and “to the good of another person,” (1 Cor. 10:24), and in doing so, to build the Kingdom of God in our daily lives. Life in Jesus’ kingdom; where we look out not only for ourselves and our own, is messier, more complicated, and less convenient, but infinitely richer and more exciting.
We are too often surrounded by tragedy. It’s easy to feel compassion fatigue; to look for a petition to sign or donation box to check and call it a day. But let’s look back at Jesus’ words and ask: To whom can I be a neighbor today? How can I “love them as myself,” here and now? I challenge all of us to sit with those questions until we can answer them, and then “go and do likewise.”