“You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” These words spoken by Jesus are often overlooked or conveniently ignored in so many ways in our day and age. What is continually embarrassing, it that it is often those who most strongly profess their Christianity are sometimes the worst offenders. How many people in our world, are ostracized, punished, alienated for so many absurd reasons? Yet how many of those who are abused, demonized and marginalized, suffering with the tacit approval of many many Christians.
It seems as too often we resort to the issue Jesus dealt with in his time. In first century Palestine, the idea of “Neighbor” generally included those of like mind, faith and culture. As Jesus pointed out time and time again, that Neighbor is anyone and everyone. Put bluntly, Fr. Murphy O’Conner described our neighbor as, “anyone with whom we are in close proximity with, physically, but these days of social media and world wide communication, everyone.” Sadly, there are too many examples of Christians treating their Neighbors exactly how some of the pharisees treated Neighbors, only those to which they were in common with.
Jesus railed against this narrow idea of Neighbor, so much so that he presented people of his time, with the outlandish, provocative story of the Good Samaritan. Think of the worst, unclean, untrustworthy group of our day and double it. Now you have an idea of how some pharisees considered the Samaritans. In Jesus’ jaw dropping example, he has the audacity to suggest that not only are we to treat the weak, beaten and abandoned as our neighbor (even dealing with blood), but also to follow the example of such an offensive group of people…and to treat them as a Neighbor also.
Christianity is hard sometimes, yet this is at the heart of Christianity. This is how they know we are Christians. Loving our Neighbor as Jesus defines it is not optional or an occasional call, it is literally one of the pillars of our faith.