Who is my neighbour

A certain lawyer asked the Lord, “Who is my neighbour?” St. Luke tells us that this lawyer knew the law very well but that he did not understand them. With His irrefutable logic Christ brought this man to the realization that his neighbour was any man. Not just a person that was close to him, a blood relative, or a friend, or someone with the same political orientation, but any man that the Lord has led onto our life path. Our neighbour is any person that is in trouble and any person who was brought into our presence out of necessity.

The neighbours of the half-dead and badly wounded Jew in today’s parable were not his countrymen who walked by him and ignored him. His true neighbour was the Samaritan, a member of a tribe that the Jews despised as traitors and enemies. This Samaritan did not just walk by the suffering man but took pity on him and tended his wounds. “Then he set him on his animal, and brought him to an inn, and took care of him.” (Luke 10:34) The following morning he took out all of his money and paid the innkeeper to take further care of the wounded man. “Take care of him, and whatever more you spend, when I come again, I will repay you.” (Luke 10:35) So when Christ asked the lawyer who this man’s neighbour was, the lawyer had no choice but to admit that it was the one who showed compassion.

And Jesus said to him, “Go and do likewise.” (Luke 10:37)

This is how Christ spoke to the lawyers and other men of high learning who had no love in their hearts, brothers and sisters. These people had a very high opinion of themselves and their conceited knowledge. Christ tells us Christians, “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbour and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you.” (Matthew 5:43-45)

The Lord destroys all barriers that separate people. He brings all of them together in the knowledge that we are all brothers among ourselves for He is our Father in heaven. Christ Himself demonstrated to us this kind of love with His redeeming sacrifice. He is neighbour to every person on earth because He suffered in order to redeem mankind. Like the good Samaritan, He tended the wounds of all mankind with wine and oil and, even though He experienced the ingratitude of men, He continues to care for us from His heavenly throne. Christ clearly lets us know that it is entirely up to us who our neighbour is. Our neighbour is any person that we perceive as such.

It is our duty to make all men our neighbours.

“Better is a neighbour that is near than a brother far off” (Proverbs 27:10) were the words of the wise Solomon many years ago who raised the relationship between human beings far above a blood relationship. Moses proclaimed to the people of Israel God’s commandment that not even a sacrificial lamb should be eaten in solitude and abundance while others go hungry, but that neighbours should be invited to partake of the sacrifice. God also commanded on various occasions that we must never bear false testimony against our neighbour (Exodus 20:16) It is also said, “Thou shalt not defraud thy neighbour, neither rob him: the wages of him that is hired shall not abide with thee all night until the morning.” (Leviticus 19:13)

“ Ye shall do no unrighteousness in judgment,” (Leviticus 19:15) God commands His people. He is especially angered by those that “stand against the blood” of their neighbours (Leviticus 19:16) He is also firm in His commandment, “Devise not evil against thy neighbour, seeing he dwelleth securely by thee.” (Proverbs 3:29) Solomon advises that even if there is a confrontation, one should not be violent. “Go not forth hastily to strive, lest thou know not what to do in the end thereof, when thy neighbour hath put thee to shame.” (Proverbs 25:8)

As firm as God is in His commandment not to judge our neighbour harshly and not to bring evil on him by our words and actions, He is as adamant that a neighbour’s sin and evil deeds must not be tolerated.  “Thou shalt not hate thy brother in thine heart: thou shalt in any wise rebuke thy neighbour, and not suffer sin upon him.” (Leviticus 19:17) He tells us that we are all brothers and that the sin and shame of one has an impact on all. “Therefore, putting away lying, let each one of you speak truth with his neighbour, for we are members of one another,” (Ephesians 4:25) says St. Paul.

Sadly, we are far from finding strength within ourselves to show love to all men alike, our enemies in particular. This imperfection does in no way cancel out Christ’s commandment to love one another, and this includes our enemies. This commandment still stands and we will have to account for it. In order to come closer to this ideal, we must show at least a little love for our neighbour. We all know that this is not our forte. St. Paul calls us to “do good to all, especially to those who are of the household of faith.” (Galatians 6:10)

We need to remember what the lawyer from today’s reading who tested Christ knew very well: love your neighbor as yourself. As opposed to the lawyer who was stuck in the Old Testament, we have been liberated and have a New Testament mindset according to which all men are our neighbors. It is said in the Holy Scripture and we know that this is true that all those commandments on adultery, robbery, murder and lying are incorporated and are manifest in their fullness in the commandment of love. If we abided by this commandment there would not be as many troubles and misfortunes, and we would be closer to our heavenly Father and to our salvation in His kingdom.