Who is my neighbor?

 On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?”

“What is written in the Law?” he replied. “How do you read it?”

He answered, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’”

“You have answered correctly,” Jesus replied. “Do this and you will live.”

But he wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”

In reply Jesus said: “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he was attacked by robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead. A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, brought him to an inn and took care of him. The next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper. ‘Look after him,’ he said, ‘and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.’

“Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?”

The expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him.”

Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.”

———–

The point that Jesus is trying to emphasize is a widening concept of the term neighbor. In an overly religious setting the walls of ‘neighbor’ were defined very strictly. Jesus steps in to say that anyone in need, no matter what differences you have, is a neighbor in need of God’s grace and your concern.

And this thought has called, encouraged and sent Christian missionaries around the world for hundreds of years. We have concluded (rightly) that anyone in need is our neighbor. We have taken Jesus’ message to heart.

But in our zeal to fulfill this call we have forgotten something that is hugely important to Jesus: our actual neighbors.

Picture your house, apartment or living quarters. Make a grid like a tic-tac-toe board and put yourself in the center.

If each section of the grid were a neighbors house, could you list the eight closest people that live next to you? What else do you know about them? Can you list everyone in the house? Are they more than casual acquaintances; would you actually consider them friends?

The times I’ve done this have shown that less than 50% of people can name a majority of people around them and very few can name all eight. The speaker this last weekend shared similar results.

In our Christian passion to share our faith with the whole world we have forgotten those that live immediately around us. We have become blinded by going to all the world that we have forgotten the immediacy of those around that need to hear about Jesus.

This is one reason I push missional theology. It forces us to wrestle with the way we think of “Christian missions.” The job isn’t always ‘to go’ to exotic places and eat different food. Sometimes Christ’s call is to stay and be with those he has put around us. It’s to know about Bill and Brenda. Have them into your home and be more than fence sharers, be real neighbors. Love them into the Kingdom.

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About Justin Hiebert

Husband to Elise Father to Kaiani and Jackson Disciple of Jesus I am a bi-vocational/missional pastor in Denver and an affiliate college professor. I love engaging people and churches in areas of discipleship, culture and Anabaptist theology in a post-Christian and post-modern society. Visit me here: http://empoweringmissional.com

15 thoughts on “Who is my neighbor?

  1. The great commandment is linked to the great commission. If we give money to a begger on the street corner but care not how the person in sin will use it, we are guilty of promoting sin. Jesus also said “For you have the poor with you always, but Me you do not have always.” (Matthew 26:11 NKJV) God either causes or allows every condition. God sometimes uses suffering to draw some to himself. Feed the poor, spiritually first than physically, giving God all the credit due Him. Teach him to fish.

    Google my post az4christ on wordpress called godless charity for more related comments.
    Praise God

    • I am having a little trouble with your statement, “If we give money to a begger on the street corner but care not how the person in sin will use it, we are guilty of promoting sin.”

      How are you coming to that conclusion? Also….I do not get the correlation with Matthew 26:11. It has nothing to do with your statement.

      • The worst thing you can do is subsidize sin. Its not compassionate to give alcohol to an alcoholic. But them a meal or clothes, but not money that will likely be used to sin.
        Math 26:11 seek the lord when he can be found. Ties your compassion to a word of witness, and do it prayerfully prepared. God either caused or allowed their poverty. Sometimes the prodigal son needs a pigs trough to humble them to obey God.

        • Actually, it is compassionate to give alcohol to someone in poverty. In fact, Proverbs seems to suggest that we do just that…
          Give strong drink unto him that is ready to perish, and wine unto those that be of heavy hearts. Let him drink, and forget his poverty, and remember his misery no more. Proverbs 31:6-7
          But I digress… it is not our job to screen and scrutinize our generosity. Being led by the Spirit and acting with compassion for those in need seems Jesus’s prerequisite. The good Samaritan didn’t interview the one he cared for to determine if he was a worthy benefactor, yet he left monetary provisions.

          Love this article on getting to know your neighbor and share the love of Christ right around you. Makes me think of 1 Thess 4:10-12.

        • We are the body of christ, that is if you are led by the holy spirit. Your form of mindless automatic charity cares not of the damage you do nor stewardship. Discression isn’t a sin. Don’t let your left hand know what the right is doing, but only as Jesus leads and to God the glory. But i suppose you can’t understand the point that is being made.

        • I have to admit…I am so confused by what you are saying and find no scriptural reference for it.

          When it comes to people in need…we should do whatever we can for them. Feed them, clothe them. It is not up to us to judge them. We cannot pre-qualify them to see if they meet our standards before helping them.

        • God could feed, cloth, and heal everyone instantly. Woudo you give money to everyone who wants it without discernment? Would you give drugs to an addict? If you give money and they buy drugs, i dont think god was glorified. If you never share the gospel with your charity, again god isnt glorified.

        • Yes He could, can, and does feed and clothe. He chooses to use us to do that. We are a part of Him. We are the “body of Christ”. We are His hands, His feet.

          God is glorified in any act of true selfless act of love to the “least of these”.

    • AZ,

      I must admit I’m not connecting where you are going with your comments. My post was to get us to focus on loving our neighbors, our actual, physical neighbors and yet you seemed to have tried to distract from that point by changing the direction to demeaning others and posting random comments. You’re above post points well to this.

      How does your assertion that the two commands are linked lead to the idea that helping on the street corner promotes sin? That has nothing to do with looking at those within our community and getting to know them. I don’t think anyone would knowingly give alcohol to someone with a serious addiction, but it is also not within our position to judge others. Don’t you make faulty assumptions by assuming everyone that needs our help is struggling with an addiction? Shouldn’t you practice a ‘judge not’ attitude? And how do you know that everyone you want to help is unsaved?

      Your final comment also seems to be meant to distract from what I was trying to write about. Who are we teaching to fish? The poor degenerate drug addiction homeless person (your words) or God (the last subject in your previous sentence)? We don’t need to teach God to fish and we can’t teach the other person to fish, because in your words they are unsaved and the idea of fishing is for those that have chosen to follow God.

      You are more than welcome to disagree with me and contribute your thoughts, but I do ask that you keep them focused on the topic at hand which is missional theology and loving our neighbors.

  2. Duh
    But what about discernment? We are the body of christ, but Jesus is the head. If we are an open faucet , the water will runout long before the poor are cared for and resentment will be at an all time high ( like welfare ). Those frauds not in need will take, and the truly needy will not receive.
    Of course we are to help the needy but even Jesus criticized people who just come for the food but couldn’t care less about salvation. Jesus didn’t feed everybody and he always taught a lesson when he did .

    How can you be so obtuse?

  3. I know my neighbors on all sides. One is buddhist , another is jehovah witness, and the rest are christian. Our kids interact and its all fine.if they ask for a cup of sugar or a battery we give it. If this is missional theology to you, then i get your point as shallow as it is.

    I seek God’s guidence to know when to witness, when to give, and when not to. The bum on the corner and mormon on the bike are also my neighbor. I do not presume to know their needs or sins, nor do i pass judgment on anyone. I do try to discern real need from scam and follow god’s leading.

    My point is that one size does not fit all and god expects his body to follow his will.

    God Bless

  4. Pingback: Helping Others | Faith

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