I am really saddened by the politics lately, considering the community center building in New York. Though I don’t follow the debates closely, from the outset, I’m saddened by the whole thing, mostly for the intolerance of our own neighbors.
Particularly, I read a comment that said, “therefore another location could be chosen for the mega-mosque. The aim should be to unite people and not to divide them.” Another one providing the idea that those of differing opinions should “build it some miles away.” Reading that, I thought of the words of the Lord, who taught us to love our neighbors.
I think it’s worth sharing a small parable from the Master, found in Luke 10.
And, behold, a certain lawyer stood up, and tempted him, saying, Master, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?
He said unto him, What is written in the law? how readest thou?
And he answering said, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy strength, and with all thy mind; and thy neighbour as thyself.
And he said unto him, Thou hast answered right: this do, and thou shalt live.
But he, willing to justify himself, said unto Jesus, And who is my neighbour?
And Jesus answering said, a certain man went down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell among thieves, which stripped him of his raiment, and wounded him, and departed, leaving him half dead. And by chance there came down a certain priest that way: and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. And likewise a Levite, when he was at the place, came and looked on him, and passed by on the other side.
But a certain Samaritan, as he journeyed, came where he was: and when he saw him, he had compassion on him, and went to him, and bound up his wounds, pouring in oil and wine, and set him on his own beast, and brought him to an inn, and took care of him. And on the morrow when he departed, he took out two pence, and gave them to the host, and said unto him, Take care of him; and whatsoever thou spendest more, when I come again, I will repay thee.
Which now of these three, thinkest thou, was neighbour unto him that fell among the thieves?
And he said, He that shewed mercy on him.
Then said Jesus unto him, Go, and do thou likewise.
There are some great things to learn from this scripture, but one that I wanted to point out was the racial division among the people. If the traveler originated from Jerusalem, then it may be safe to assume that he was a Jew — a native to the country. Those that passed him by would have been kinsmen — a priest, and a Levite.
It was a Samaritan that helped him, though. That the Lord mentioned him by origin is telling. The Samaritans were a mixed breed of race. In recent history, the kingdom of Israel had been conquered, and a few Israelites left. The land was later colonized by the Assyrians and the Babylonians, and the people were mixed in religion as well — both heathen and believer.
They were most hated by the Jews, for their perceived impure backgrounds and practices, yet, geographically speaking, they were neighbors. And it was those, among whom the world expects the least, that comes salvation.
In the parable, Christ was speaking of Himself. He was also of mixed breed, born of a mortal mother and an immortal Father, and He was despised of all men, for not conforming to their beliefs and culture. And yet, He is the one who will bring salvation and life to the wounded.
Who, then, today are our neighbors? Can we pick them any more than we can pick our own family? If we disagree culturally or politically, should we demand that they go elsewhere?
I believe that the Lord intended the principle of loving our neighbors to be both figurative and literal. There are differences between races and cultures, for sure, but as a species we are far more alike than different.
Who are our neighbors? Those who take residence next to us. In the sense of loving them, the parable illustrated the commandment by showing service, to lift them up and carry them upon our own beasts and to give of our own resources when none other — even those who were called to that work — would be so willing. May we do the same.