Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Loving Your Neighbor

One of the best known phrases from the Bible is the words of Jesus, where He said: "Love your neighbor as yourself." Now this sounds good, but what does it mean, and how are we to live this out? I ask these questions, because I know that it is easy to speak the words, but if I don't know what it looks like, then I probably won't be doing it in my life.
In the Bible, after Jesus said these words, He was asked the question: "Who is my neighbor?" That is a good question. If we are supposed to love our neighbor, then it would be good to know who our neighbor is. The obvious answer might be the person that lives next to us, or on the same block as us. But Jesus wanted us to understand that it is much broader than that. In short, Jesus told a story about a Jewish man who was attacked, robbed, and injured. He was injured so badly that he couldn't walk to get help. As time went on a couple of different people walked by, and not wanting to get involved, they passed by on the other side without helping. Finally, a Samaritan (one who didn't get along with Jews) walked by. When he saw the man was injured, he felt compassion for him, and so he carried him to a place where he could get help, and paid for the man's care.
In telling this story, Jesus was making the point that our neighbor is anyone we come in contact with that needs our help. It doesn't matter the ethnicity, the social status, or the way the person looks, to "love our neighbor as ourself" means to care for those who we can help. This is challenging, because it is easy to keep to yourself; to not want to involve yourself in the problems and concerns of others. But life needs to be about giving ourselves away.
As a minister, I have many opportunities to do this. And when I help another person, I need to do it without the expectation of getting anything back. If I do it with that kind of an attitude, then I will have selfish motives, and it will limit my capability to love genuinely. So when I see a need, and realize that I have the means to help, then I reach out in love and help that other person. In this way I am "loving my neighbor as myself." How about you? Where have you been able to do this? I would love to hear your story.