Who is my neighbor?

In the Forum on Sunday (9/4) we considered Paul’s wisdom “The commandments, “You shall not commit adultery; You shall not murder; You shall not steal; You shall not covet”; and any other commandment, are summed up in this word, “Love your neighbor as yourself.”  Romans 8:9

In a previous post I shared a “spiritual exercise” with you and invited you to, well . . . exercise. In the Forum we discussed the notion of “neighbor.” Of course, “Who is my neighbor?” was the question put to Jesus who answered by telling the story of the Good Samaritan and then asked the questioner (at the conclusion of the story) “Which of these three, do you think, was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of the robbers?” Luke 10:36 “The one who showed mercy” was the (correct) answer and Jesus instructed his questioner (a lawyer) to go and do likewise.

Within the Forum as we wrestled with the question ourselves some began with the “neighbor” they could see and touch and interact with—beginning in their own families. To love this flesh and blood neighbor was their challenge. Others looked into the immediate community—the homeless, the hungry, even the violent—as the neighbor they were called to love. Still others looked into the “whole world” and included “enemies” in their neighborhood. All this to say that there are many answers to this question and that the best place to start to answer is the place you find yourself in right now.

Jesus through his stories, through his teaching, in his life and in his death opened his heart and opened his arms wide enough to embrace all who came to be in his presence, beginning with the flesh and blood family into which he was born, the flesh and blood group of disciples he gathered around him, and then he kept expanding his embrace until he opened his arms wide upon the cross and embraced us all. He sent his apostles and disciples into the whole world. Over the centuries, at our best, we the church have understood our mission as being an inclusive mission. At our worst we have drawn boundaries and counted some in and some out (and sadly this practice continues into our own day).

Let’s behave well, be on our best, as we answer the question, “Who is my neighbor” for ourselves. We have lots of information, now we need to match that with our actions.

Author: Daniel Rondeau

I am a husband and father and an Episcopal Priest (now retired) in the Episcopal Diocese of San Diego.

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