The Good Neighbor
In the parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37), the lawyer asks Jesus,“What must I do to inherit eternal life?” Jesus responds, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself.” Jesus answers the lawyer’s second question–“And who is my neighbor?”–with the story of the Good Samaritan. On the surface of the story are duty and responsibility. Struggling beneath the text are faith, hope, and love.
In taking care of the wounded traveler, the Samaritan crosses racial, social and religious boundaries etched deep by time and tradition. Like the priest and Levite, the Samaritan could have followed a safer and easier path, but God moves underneath, shaking the foundations of hatred and crushing the stumbling blocks to love. Unfettered by the shackles of ethnic propriety and religious purity, the Samaritan becomes the good neighbor.
The story of the Good Samaritan reminds us of others closer to own history who crossed dangerous boundaries to risk neighbor love. We remember J. Howard Williams, A.C. Miller, T.B. Maston and many others who founded the Texas Baptist Christian Life Commission in an era seething with racial hostility. We remember the “Two Martins” – Martin Luther King, Jr., who wrote the famous “Letter from Birmingham Jail” and Martin England, one of the founders of Koinonia Farms in Georgia, who risked his life to pick up and deliver the letter. We remember Clarence Jordan, another Koinonia founder whose farming-based training center became a “witness in the dirt” for neighbor love and the way of Jesus.
Jesus asked, “Which of these three, do you think, was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?” The lawyer replied, “The one who showed him mercy.” Jesus said, “Go and do likewise.”
Let us remember brothers and sisters who risked their lives to be good neighbors across the great divides of race and ethnicity. Remembering, let us go and do likewise.