To Ask and Listen
By Rachel Ann Labasan
This gospel story is familiar to many of us - the law experts tried to trap Jesus through questions grounded on specific interpretation of the Law (Torah). Since they already saw themselves as experts, their purpose in questioning Jesus was not to learn or to clarify. Both parties agreed that “loving God with all of one’s heart, soul, strength and mind; and loving one’s neighbor as though it is loving oneself” is the key to eternal life. But then a crucial question followed: ‘Who is my neighbor?”
I can imagine the question bringing up other concerns: “Can our neighbor be just anybody?” “How can we help the very persons who were taught to us as our enemies?” “Are they worth our helping hand?” Come to think of it, in that very place and time, Samaritans and Jews should not be neighbors. Historically, Israel was the chosen people of God. It was easy for them to love their own kin – their fellow Jews – but not the Samaritans.
I want us to look deep into ourselves and ask the question – “Am I being a neighbor to everyone?”
We are a world of diverse culture - in our schools, workplaces, even in our churches. As Christians, have we ever asked God what should we be doing for them – our neighbors from a different race, ethnicity, age, class, or gender preference? I want us to look deep into ourselves and ask the question – “Am I being a neighbor to everyone?”
Familiarity. We are most comfortable with the persons most like us. It’s easy, albeit enjoyable, to love the persons that are close to us, but sometimes this hinders us to become a neighbor to others – in attending to their needs, or offering help that we can offer. Leo Buscaglia in his book, Loving Each Other, explains how a simple power of touch transforms a person’s life. He gave an example of a widow who had lost her husband 12 years ago. The woman was so happy when someone hugged her, and said it was the first, warmest hug, she ever did receive since her husband died! This was because someone changed their view of their neighbor to offer the widow the love of Christ.
That very powerful word – human – strips off the labels... so we can be a neighbor to anyone that needs us
We, humans, coexist for each other. And that very powerful word – human – strips off the labels of race, ethnicity, class, gender, and age so we can be a neighbor to anyone that needs us, just as Jesus was when he lived with us in this world. The next time we ask him the question, “Who is our neighbor?”, may we consider his prayer in John 17:21 (ESV), as his answer:
“…that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world will believe that you have sent me.”
Questions for Discussion:
- In your workplace, school, community, and churches, could you think of a person that is different from your own nationality, class, gender preference, or age to whom God wants you to be a neighbor?
- If people strips off labels of race, ethnicity, age, class, or gender preference and treat each other as their fellow humans with the same needs, do you think this world will be a better place to live in? Why do you think so?