A couple of weeks ago we had an interesting discussion about the concept of neighborhood. The discussion came up because of what Paul says in Galatians 5:14:

For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”

This naturally begs the question: who is my neighbor?

The first thing that comes to mind is that a neighbor is someone you live in the same area as. I can understand, and appreciate, that definition but I would ask you: do you know your neighbors? Can you name just one of them? I know I can only name one, and that’s because he is our mechanic!

It’s actually something that really convicts me some times. I’m sure there are some wonderful people in around us, and if nothing else, some lost people around us! I know within my own life, and I think I’m normal in this regard (though there are lots of areas I’m not normal), that I tend to keep to myself and ignore those around me. After all relationships can be messy; they take time to cultivate and nurture, and what if I just don’t get along with some people? The real question is why haven’t I even tried?

Okay, so we can agree that the people we live around could be considered our neighbor, but is that all it’s limited too? What about the people I encounter at church? Or at work? At the mall? I think in order to get a better understanding of what a true neighbor is we need to look at the account of the “Good Samaritan.” Here is the parable from Luke 10

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?”

You should come to the conclusion that the Samaritan was the one who proved to be a neighbor. What makes the story so interesting is that if the man had been conscience he probably would have turned the help away wishing rather to die than be in contact with a Samaritan.

As we go about our life we need to realize that everyone is our neighbor. We have all been created in the image of God (yes, even you) and we need to respect that fact. A true neighbor is any member of the human race that you come into contact with, regardless of their position, believes, skin tone, nationality, hair color, whatever!

Maybe the best place to start is in your own neighborhood – make up some cookies and a little note and give them away to some of the people around you. Open up your home or organize a block party. You never know what God will do if we simply open up a little bit and share our lives with those in proximity to us!