Contributed by Patrick O’Neal
Minister at the Muscatine Church of Christ

Many people came up against Jesus. Sometimes he was blunt and even harsh with his answers, but other times he used stories and questions so that the one challenging him would have to think, dig deep, and ultimately be the one put to a challenge.

This is exactly what happened in the dialogue between Jesus and a bible scholar in Luke 10:25-37.

Scholar:    How do I gain eternal life?
Jesus:       What do you think?
Scholar:    Love God, and love your neighbor.
Jesus:       Absolutely!
Scholar:    But who is my neighbor?

[Jesus tells the story of a man who was beaten and left for dead. Two religious leaders saw the plight of the man but walked by doing nothing. Then, a “Good Samaritan” came along and went over-and-beyond to make sure he was taken care of.]

Jesus:      Who was the neighbor?
Scholar:   The one who showed mercy.
Jesus:      That’s who you need to be.

The scholar knew that he was supposed to love people, but aren’t there those – like the much-hated Samaritans – who don’t fall in this category? Those who don’t qualify as neighbors? Those whom we don’t have to show love? Ultimately, he’s saying, Jesus, who do I have to love? Those from a different church, a different religion, a different nationality, a different political affiliation – who is it okay not to love?

Jesus flips the whole thing around on him – you’re asking the wrong question! Don’t draw lines and put a circle around those who are just like you by asking, “Who is my neighbor?” Instead with a heart full of compassion ask, “How can I be a neighbor?”

There is no cap on love. Every fellow human being with whom we come in contact is our neighbor. There is no one – regardless of how we feel about them or their beliefs – who is not our neighbor. For those of us who are Christians, there is no one whom we aren’t called to love. But for those of you reading this who aren’t Christians – you’re not bound to this, but just imagine how much better your life and the lives of those around you would be if you lived by this principle. Let’s open our arms, open our eyes, open our ears, and open our heart to the world around us and ask, “How can I be a neighbor?”

I love you and God loves you?