One day while Jesus was in the middle of instructing His disciples on principles of church planting, a preacher came up to Him to make sure of his salvation. Jesus told him simply to love God and love his neighbor. Breathing a sigh of relief, for Jesus’ requirements seem simple, he confidently inquires: “Who is my neighbor?”

Once upon a time, Jesus shares, there was a Jew traveling from Jerusalem to Jericho. It’s a relatively short trip – about 15 miles – and if the man had a donkey or horse, it was a basic commute. But this day, he had bad luck. He fell into the hands of robbers. They stripped him, beat him, and took all he had.

A couple of the man’s Jewish-preacher-neighbors walked by. But they had work to do and didn’t stop. “May God help you,” they whispered, a prayer out of their great compassion. Not long later, a cursed, half-breed, unclean Samaritan approached the Jew. He saw his misfortune and stooped to help. “But..Jews don’t associate with Samaritans,” the Jew uttered under his breath as he painfully – and gratefully – sipped from the man’s canteen. There was no room for suspicion of the man’s kind deeds in his vulnerable state.

What was the Samaritan thinking? Maybe, “Why should I care about you? What good have your people ever done for us? You hate me. Your own people won’t even help you.” Or maybe, “I give because I have received. I love because I am loved. I show mercy because God has showed me mercy.”

It’s now Jesus turn to ask: Who is the man’s neighbor?

We know the answer.

If I’m your neighbor, you’re mine.

So asking Jesus’ question another way: Who is the Samaritan’s neighbor?

His fellow Samaritan? His family and friends that he loves? No, no.

The Samaritan’s neighbor is the Jew who hates Samaritans. He is the angry Arab taxi driver bound by his ire. His neighbor is the Saudi girl in small town North Dakota who everyone is afraid to befriend. His neighbor is the Somali religious leader who has never had a Christian friend. His neighbor is the Hmong woman of St. Paul who doesn’t know the name Jesus. His neighbor is the Muslim whose people have hated Christians for centuries. His neighbor is the soul who has fallen into the hands Islam – the bandit employed by the enemy who steals, kills and destroys.

We have been shown mercy; we haven’t received our due punishment for our wrongdoings. And who is the one according to Jesus that “will live”? The listening crowd knew the answer: “The one who showed mercy.”

“Go and do the same,” He says.

There are many Muslims in America not being loved by their neighbors. The distance from Fergus Falls to Pelican Rapids is 23 miles, a little farther than Jerusalem to Jericho. The trip would be worth it to experience the kind of life that Jesus talked about. Let’s go and do like the Good Samaritan, not to those who are like us, but to those who are different.

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PHOTO CREDIT: Painted Ladies at Alamo Square, San Francisco (III) via photopin (license)

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