Who Is My Neighbor?

But he, desiring to justify himself, said to Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”

Luke 10:29

A Torah specialist, or a “lawyer,” as Luke says in 10:25, raises an important question, tongue in cheek. Jesus sees through and exposes him with the notorious story of the Good Samaritan. The tale’s hook remains a challenge for us, too. For what irony: Priest and Levite, the professional church men of those days, pass by the man who had been robbed and beaten. They won’t smirch hands or waste their time with the victim of violence, although his misery is plain enough! But a Samaritan, both despised & hated by orthodox contemporaries, has mercy on the wounded. He helps and goes the second mile, and doesn’t even shy away from paying the bill for the victim’s health care.

In what role do I see myself?

Jesus’ question is as poignant as it was 2000 years ago: “Which of these three, do you think, proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell among robbers?” Are we also by-passers in some ways? The media flush the world’s miseries right into our living room. Frightened eyes of refugee children in ramshackle boats look at us. Those who suffer hunger, or have been traumatized by wars, these and many more come ever closer. Surely, we can do little for them. But who are the people whose neighbor we can be? Whom are we overlooking? Whom have we failed or passed by?

Heinz-Josef Fabry, a now retired professor of theology, another specialist, once said, “No, it doesn’t matter who is my neighbor, but whose neighbor I am supposed to be.” So, Lord, open our eyes and grant us helping hands for the people who need our help, especially in the household of God. For as those who are being carried, we can also carry others.