How can we ‘love our neighbors’?

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In Luke 10:25-37, Jesus has a conversation with someone who wants to know how to be in eternal communion with God. The person uses different language to frame the question. Still, it was essentially about relating to God. Jesus responds to the question, “What do the rules say?”

In response, the person quotes Deuteronomy 6:5 and Leviticus 19:18. “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, strength, and mind, and love your neighbor as yourself.”

Jesus said, “You’re right!”

When the person asked, “Who is my neighbor,” Jesus told the story of the Good Samaritan.

It’s one of the most familiar parables and the basis of many sermons. The story points out that everyone is my neighbor. It doesn’t matter what differences we have or how one people group hates another. When the Samaritan person helps the Jewish person, they are part of one humanity. Highlighting the surface differences between Jewish and Samaritan people make it the basis for racial reconciliation. People also relate the story to institutional violence and systemic poverty when they ask about the background of the robbers.

Today, I thought about it because we are in an election year and we are as divided as ever. People pick sides in any election year, but this one bears the feeling of a great chasm between people. People with different ideologies cannot talk with one another. Dialogue seems to have vanished.

As I thought about our differences, I remembered the vitriol between Jewish and Samaritan people. Yet, Jesus told a Jewish group a story in which the hero was a Samaritan. It was shocking! They might not have been able to imagine such a thing.

Think about a story in which someone who supports a different candidate than you is the hero. Some people might find it unimaginable to hear the story of the Good Democrat or Good Republican. Suddenly, the familiar story of the Good Samaritan carries the revolutionary ring Jesus intended.

Jesus asked, “Which one was a neighbor?”

The person said, “The one who showed mercy.”

Jesus said, “Go and do likewise.”

We love our neighbors by being merciful. Everyone has something good to offer. Instead of focusing on the bad, we can focus on the good. We can think of something positive to say and work on building relationships. We can be part of the encouraging change we want to see.

Who knows? People might even get to a point when we can have a constructive dialogue.

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