A neighbor can be a stranger

Personally, the answer to this question for me is that anyone who is not me is my neighbor.

Leviticus 19:18 tells us to love our neighbors as ourselves. What is most important in the 21st century about this question would be, in my opinion, who and what do we identify with?

If we are like the lawyer in Luke 10:25-29, we may try to justify ourselves by finding glowing humanitarian conditions before we commit to loving someone, so that if they are of a different color, culture or country then we are somehow excused from loving them because they are not relatable.

However, the word “love,” or the Hebrew ahav, is understood to mean “esteem,” and it is understood throughout scripture to summarize and fulfill the other commandments. In Matthew 7:12, when Jesus cites the Golden Rule of “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you,” He takes time to explain this is The Law and the Prophets.

From the perspective of loving oneself, the inference is to first have self-esteem, and then you are in position to love and esteem others.

Leviticus 19:34 continues with this admonition: “The stranger who lives among you shall be as one born among you, and you should love him as yourself; for you were strangers in the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God.”

— Beverly Mattox, Word Alive International Outreach

Open your heart to find new neighbors

The parable of the Good Samaritan, in Luke’s Gospel, begins with this question from Jesus: “Who is my neighbor?” A popular advertising slogan tells us: “Like a good neighbor, State Farm is there.”

If we’re looking to buy or rent a house, one of the first things we tell the real estate agent is that we want to live in a good neighborhood. We want good neighbors. Neighbors should be courteous, considerate and respectful. They should keep their homes and their yards well maintained.

In his poem “Mending Wall,” the poet Robert Frost says (tongue in cheek) that good fences make good neighbors. Human beings put up all sorts of fences and walls between themselves. We are divided by race, ethnicity, politics, education and economics. We grow “hedges” that keep us divided. Ironically, Sunday mornings have been called the most segregated time of the week.

Dr. Ed Stetzer says: “Surprisingly, most churchgoers are content with the ethnic status quo in their churches. In a world where our culture is increasingly diverse, and many pastors are talking about diversity, it appears most people are happy where they are — and with whom they are.”

Jesus says in Mark 12:31, “Love your neighbor as yourself.” This is known as the second great commandment. We need to open our minds, our hearts and the gates in our fences. God calls us to practice compassion, forgiveness and reconciliation. Earth is, when you think about it, just one big neighborhood!

— Robert Fowler, St. Luke's Episcopal Church, Jacksonville