Transforming your neighborhood vs Leaving your neighborhood
Everyday we encounter people from all sorts of different backgrounds. Whether from other cities, states, or countries, we are constantly encountering people of different cultures and stories.
Although it is easy to endure a two minute conversation with someone and then move on with life, getting to know a complete stranger on a personal level is the complete opposite. Building relationships is difficult, and requires a good share of humility and vulnerability. As Christians, we are called to a much higher standard than just living comfortably. It is too easy to pack up and move once property values drop, or when the neighborhood starts to change colors. The gospel commands us to love the people God has placed in our lives, sometimes when we want to, and sometimes when we’d rather not.
By God’s grace, we were not just commanded to love one another without being given an example, and clear instructions. Ultimately, we get the perfect picture of community when we look at Jesus. Although he was fully man, yet fully God, Jesus did not come to earth so that he may perform a one man show. Instead he called his twelve disciples, and lived every day of his ministry with them. In Luke, Jesus shares a story about love with a lawyer. Although many of us have heard it before, it is very easy to forget parables about how we are to love our neighbor:
The Parable of the Good Samaritan
And behold, a lawyer stood up to put him to the test, saying, “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” He said to him, “What is written in the Law? How do you read it?” And he answered, “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.” And he said to him, “You have answered correctly; do this, and you will live.”
But he, desiring to justify himself, said to Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” Jesus replied, “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and he fell among robbers, who stripped him and beat him and departed, leaving him half dead. Now by chance a priest was going down that road, and when he saw him he passed by on the other side. So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan, as he journeyed, came to where he was, and when he saw him, he had compassion. He went to him and bound up his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he set him on his own animal and brought him to an inn and took care of him. And the next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper, saying, ‘Take care of him, and whatever more you spend, I will repay you when I come back.’ Which of these three, do you think, proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell among the robbers?” He said, “The one who showed him mercy.” And Jesus said to him, “You go, and do likewise.”
(Luke 10:25-37 ESV)
Jesus did not ask the lawyer and people listening to love their neighbor, he commanded it. Twice the beaten man was passed by, left to die like an animal. However, a Samaritan traveling down a 17 mile, bumpy, and curvy road stopped and cared for the man. His compassion went beyond the cultural differences of his day, and showed love for his neighbor as he would himself. We are not encouraged to do this in our lives, we are commanded to. Loving ourselves is easy, no one has to teach us to do that. We naturally work to build our self-esteem, and find things that bring us joy and happiness. We worry about our bellies staying full, yet watch our neighbors go hungry everyday. Rather than leaving our neighborhoods to find our own comfort, let us rejoice and have confidence in the work that Christ has done for us, so that we may reflect the love that we know so well. Let us seek love and know those in need, starting with the person next door.
Nathan Elizondo, Relationship Coordinator