Thursday, May 19, 2011

Psalm 17.7-15, Leviticus 17.1-16, Luke 10.23-42 - Lectionary for 5/19/11

Today's readings are Psalm 17.7-15, Leviticus 17.1-16, and Luke 10.23-42.

In Luke 10.27 we are presented with the two great commands of God. Love God with our all. Love our neighbor as ourself. We see that the person who articulated those commands, the person talking with Jesus, immediately follows up by asking a question that might release him from some of the possible demands of God. If he can eliminate a large number of his neighbors on some technicality, he thinks he might find that he isn't breaking God's law. Of course, he doesn't try to approach the idea of loving God entirely and always, perfectly, which he knows deep down he doesn't do.

This idea of loving your neighbor is a problem, though. I've often heard a poorly nuanced answer given for who our neighbor is. People may make the suggestion based on this passage of Scripture that everyone is our neighbor. I'd contend that Jesus doesn't say that. The fact is, if everybody in the world is my neighbor, it's utterly impossible that I should love my neighbor. For instance, as I was writing the prior sentence, I saw a fire truck go down the street about a block away. I don't know where it is going, what kind of call it is responding to, or anything about the people involved. I'm incapable of loving those people on the fire engine or the people who instigated the call as I love myself. Why? I have no idea who they are and have no contact with them.

On the contrary, look at the example of the Samaritan man and the person who had been attacked by robbers. They have proximity. They are actually in contact with one another. The Samaritan man has means and opportunity to help the other man. He did not have means and opportunity to help other people who, at that time, were not his neighbors. It's important in defining how we love our neighbor that we realize our neighbor is always someone we have contact with. We have knowledge of that person and have, at least on some level, the opportunity to love and serve the person.

Let us love our neighbors as ourselves, and we hope we have many many neighbors. But let us not be fearful that we will incur the wrath of God by not making everyone in the world our neighbor. Some people are, some people simply aren't.

May God bless us this day with all the neighbors he would like us to have.

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