Jesus was talking to a lawyer about the two most important commandments. When they got to the second one: “Love your neighbor as yourself,” the lawyer, wanting to justify himself said, “Who is my neighbor?” He was probably hoping that Jesus would say, “The guy who lives next to you, you know, the one who is so similar to you that you can easily identify with him.”
But that is not what Jesus said. He told him a story about a man who had been mugged. Two religious people from the man’s own neck of the woods walked right by him; they couldn’t be bothered with helping him. Another man, one from a race hated by his culture, came to his aid. He took care of his wounds and made provision for him while he was recovering.
With this story in mind, we have to ask ourselves: “Who is my neighbor?” Of course, it is the person living within shouting distance, but it is also the person living all the way across town in a completely different neighborhood. It is the man on the street corner asking for a handout. It is the person we meet in a store who is experiencing some kind of difficulty.
Any time God puts someone in our path that needs help and we can meet that need, they are our neighbor. They may not look like our neighbor, i.e. their skin color may be different, they may have trouble expressing themselves in our language, they may even live a completely different lifestyle than we do; it doesn’t matter, they are our neighbor.
Let’s ask God to open our hearts and soften them to be sensitive to those he is putting in our path that may need help. Sometimes the need is invisible, the people look absolutely fine, but there is a hidden need inside of them. They are desperate for a kind word and a connection to another human being, and we can meet that need by taking the time to talk to that person and lend an ear.
Who is our neighbor? He is someone that God has put in front of us today with a need. He wants us to stop and meet that need. It will not only change their lives for the better, it will change ours for the better also.