Thursday, September 10, 2009

Who Is My Neighbor?

"Who is my Neighbor?" Jesus was asked this question more than once. The most memorable time was when he responded with the story of the "Good Samaritan." If he was telling the story today he might call it the "Good Muslim." After the evangelical preacher, and the Catholic priest, and the mainline denominational pastor all passed on the other side. It was the Muslim who stopped and cared for the man. Who was the neighbor?
We have defined neighbor as those living around us, those who look like us, and those who act like us. Jesus defined neighbor on a higher plane. Neighbors show mercy. Neighbors don't just show mercy based on geography, race, gender, or moral standing. Neighbors show mercy to everyone. Evangelicals and mainline denominations alike have watered down the radical nature of Jesus' message, or one might say "lowered the bar."

Our theology is a theology of fear. We fear judgment so we either convince ourselves that the bar is easy just say the right words and you're in, or that there is no bar at all. The reality of Jesus' message is neither. It is, in fact, a very high bar. To date, the punishment for not attaining that bar has been 2,000 years of suffering, 2,000 years of war and poverty, 2,000 years of denial and self-righteousness, and 2,000 years of scapegoating and blaming. It's time to stop. It's time to step beyond the fray, beyond political groups, beyond religious bickering, beyond political power grabs, and beyond self-centeredness.

"Who is my Neighbor?" Jesus doesn't call us to blame others for not being good neighbors. Jesus calls us to the much more difficult life- changing experience of becoming a neighbor to everyone. In the Kingdom of heaven that Jesus came to proclaim, mercy reigns, not power, not control, not political influence, mercy. Don't ask, "Who is my Neighbor?" ask "To whom can I be a neighbor?" Then everyone will be your neighbor, and mercy will reign.

God Bless
Pastor John

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