Not My Neighbor!

Most likely many of us are more-than-familiar with the following little exchange that occurred between Jesus and another man. The other guy has been referred to as an expert in religious law, a lawyer, and an authority of the law, among other things.

Their conversation is recorded in the Gospel of Luke 10:25-28:

One day an expert in religious law stood up to test Jesus by asking him this question: “Teacher, what should I do to inherit eternal life?”

Jesus replied, “What does the law of Moses say? How do you read it?”

The man answered, “‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your strength, and all your mind.’ And, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’”

“Right!” Jesus told him. “Do this and you will live!”


The expert in religious law hears Jesus’ response, but, apparently it was so “other” than what he’d expected, that he asks Jesus to explain further. Frederick Buechner tells it this way in his book Wishful Thinking. (The same was also printed in one of his other works, Beyond Words):

When Jesus said to love your neighbor, a lawyer who was present asked him to clarify what he meant by neighbor. He wanted a legal definition he could refer to in case the question of loving one ever happened to come up. He presumably wanted something on the order of: “A neighbor (hereinafter referred to as the party of the first part) is to be construed as meaning a person of Jewish descent whose legal residence is within a radius of no more than three statute miles from one’s own legal residence unless there is another person of Jewish descent (hereinafter to be referred to as the party of the second part) living closer to the party of the first part than one is oneself, in which case the party of the second part is to be construed as neighbor to the party of the first part and one is oneself relieved of all responsibility of any sort or kind whatsoever.”

Instead Jesus told the story of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:30-37), the point of which seems to be that your neighbor is to be construed as meaning anybody who needs you. The lawyer’s response is left unrecorded.

What’s your response?


Tom and his wife, Kim, were thrilled to finally begin their vacation. As they waited at their gate, reading and sipping coffee, an elderly man in a wheelchair was brought to the boarding area by an airline employee. He sat quietly for a few minutes, but then, abruptly, inquired where the bathrooms were.

The employee, distracted and preparing to board the entire plane, muffled something without making much eye contact. Tim watched as the man looked around, discouraged and anxious. Kim described what happened next:

Before I knew it, my husband is standing up to introduce himself and offered to take this man himself! I squirmed a little, concerned this would cause him to miss our boarding spot. And was Tom overstepping his bounds?

But not five minutes later, Tom and his new friend were wheeling back to the gate and happily chatting about vacation lake life after a successful trip to the bathroom. Not everyone knows the tender, servant-hearted side of Tom like I do. I’m so proud to call this man my partner, husband, and best daddy.


Consider this definition:

A man must not choose his neighbor; he must take the neighbor that God sends to him . . . the neighbor is just the man who is next to you at the moment, the man with whom any business has brought you into contact.
George MacDonald

Clearly Tom’s response was to “take the neighbor” that God sent to him and respond as a servant. To respond in love.

How will you also do the same?

As we live, work and play, can we walk the way like Jesus?

Let’s really see our neighbors, not just pass them by on the other side.