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  • Autumn Swain

What it Means to Love Your Neighbor

Whatever one’s faith background, I would venture to believe that most people have heard of this Biblical statement: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, and strength, and likewise, love your neighbor as yourself.” (Mark 12:30-31)

Jesus very strategically gives us an example of what loving your neighbor actually looks like. I have been guilty of reading this story of the Good Samaritan (see full story below) and only seeing two men who chose not to love their neighbor, while one good man chooses to extend a helping hand. However, Wayne Gordon, author of Who Is My Neighbor?, takes on the challenge of breaking down just what Jesus is wanting to show us here. May I add that this book includes over 40 ways we are called to love our neighbor all found in one short story.

I always challenge people that when you read a book, unless you have a photographic memory, try to grab just three golden nuggets from what you read to meditate on, remember and apply to your life. From this book I took away three impactful truths worth their weight in gold that if meditated on, remembered and applied, would change our world's reality.

  1. Loving your neighbor requires pretty serious sacrifice; it will take an investment - usually of resources, time and personal comfort.

  2. Loving your neighbor often comes with layers of need; so a quick fix is not realistic.

  3. Loving your neighbor requires being up close and personal many times with a person of a different ethnic and cultural background.

I want to reflect on this third point a little bit. Gordon discusses in his book the reality of living in a “racialized society”. Basically, ethnic groups are not in open war against one another, but they remain separated in significant ways. He states, “Interethnic and interracial marriages are very rare in a racialized society. And the different groups live in their own, separate areas. You will find this in virtually all US cities….We rarely interact in any significant ways with people of other groups. Even in the church, 90 percent of African-Americans worship in predominantly African-American churches, while 95 percent of white churchgoers attend predominantly white churches.”

Through Gordon’s life experiences, he proclaims what is at the heart of this “Seeing Color” initiative, that to be “colorblind” should not be the goal. God made us multicultural and multi-ethnic. “We are enriched by diversity and ought to celebrate it.”, says Gordon.

I would love to take the time to break down all the aspects of loving our neighbors, which also include neighbors who are lonely, victims, unable to express thanks, and strangers, but you can get your hands on this book to read more. However, I do want to encourage you to consider that loving your neighbor is not only about embracing your neighbors of different ethnic and cultural backgrounds, but many times this extension to love your neighbor across ethnic and cultural lines also means educating yourself and making appropriate sacrifices knowing your neighbor is also often a victim of injustice. Now this could be victims of human trafficking, or children being oppressed in third world countries, but this also includes people that you interact with in your own communities. Maybe your neighbor is your colleague? Studies have shown that black people are still getting paid less than white people for doing the exact same job.

Of course it requires sacrifice, but the man left to die on the side of the road was highlighted by God in the Bible and the Good Samaritan was not going to overlook this situation. Each of us are called with a unique purpose, but we are all similarly called to love our neighbors. My prayer is that we authentically desire to “be wise as serpents and innocent as doves.” (Matthew 10:16) This means not turning a blind eye to our neighbors that are struggling, and exercising wisdom in how to truly be effective in loving your neighbor while embracing the sacrifice that it requires.

“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[c] 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.” - Luke 10:30-37


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