Who Exactly Is My Neighbor?
One time a guy came to Jesus and asked him, "Can you boil all this religious stuff down for me?" Jesus said, "Sure, love God and love your neighbor."
The guy responded with another question, "Okay, but who exactly is my 'neighbor'?"
To answer the guy's question, Jesus told a very famous story that has become known as The Parable of the Good Samaritan. You probably know the story.
A guy is traveling from Jerusalem to Jericho and got mugged. There he was, stranded and beaten half to death. Several very religious people passed right by without lifting a finger to help. In fact, they went so far as to cross to the other side of the road. Maybe they wanted to pretend they didn't see him. Maybe they just didn't want to get involved. They were, after all, very religious and probably very busy people. They had the Lord's work to do.
Then a Samaritan came by and saw the guy. He stopped and did everything he could to help. He got the guy to a place where he could rest and recuperate. He even paid the guy's bill and promised to come back to check on him.
Finally, Jesus asked, "Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?"
The guy looked at Jesus and said, "Obviously, it was the one who helped him."
Jesus told him, "Go and do likewise." (Luke 10:30-37)
What's Jesus up to with this story? He's trying to help people see that the category of "neighbor" (those whom we are called to love) is much bigger than most of us typically think.
"Neighbors" include those who don't look, think or talk like us. "Neighbors" might include people outside our immediate community -- even our immediate religious, ethnic or political community.
Loving God, according to Jesus, means loving as many different kinds of people as God loves. That means we're called to rethink who gets included in the category of "neighbor" -- it also means we should rethink who gets included in the category of "enemy".