But he, willing to justify himself, said unto Jesus, And who is my neighbour?
The commandment is to love our neighbors as ourselves, but what does that mean? Who do we really have to love as ourselves in order to obey this command? Who is our neighbor? Is it those we associate with most often? Those like us? Those near us? Those who make it easy to love them because it doesn’t require much of us? That might be our definition, but Jesus reveals His definition in the parable of the Good Samaritan.
And going by that, our neighbor is the helpless and the hopeless. Our neighbor is the one beaten down by the evil of this world and ignored by the self-righteous. Our neighbor is the one we help when it’s not convenient or free or easy. Our neighbor is a lot like us, someone who just needs someone else not to walk on by. Our neighbor could really be anyone anywhere.
So maybe a better question to ask is not “Who is my neighbor?” but “Who can I be a neighbor to?” We don’t need to worry so much about the definition, but we can seek people to minister to. We can seek people to love and people to help and people we can give something to or someone to whom we can offer hope and grace in the midst of a sinful and troublesome world. We can walk beside one another and encourage, edify and strengthen those around us.
In the end, maybe the “how” is more important than the “who,” because loving our neighbors looks a lot like how Jesus loves us. Often it costs something, but it demonstrates grace and mercy and shows compassion. It goes above and beyond. It sees the task through to the end. It places another above oneself. Being a neighbor means we don’t ignore or expect someone else to take care of it, but we step in, we take the time and expend the effort, because it’s not about us. Loving others as we should produces selflessness and compassion and a Christlike character in us. So, who are our neighbors, and how are we being neighbors to them?