Making the Stranger Into a Neighbor
Religious faith can call us into deeper love and mercy or it can make us self-satisfied. Jesus shows this tension at work in the parable of the Good Samaritan. The Lawyer who is questioning wants to know who is his neigthbor (whom must he love, so he can figure out who he doesn’t have to love) so Jesus tells this famous story. The Preist and the Levite use their religious obligations to shield them so they don’t need to offer mercy. The Samaritan responds to the need he sees. He does what love does, making the stranger into a neighbor.
Religious rules can have some benefit, but when they make us less responsive to the needs of others around us, they must take a back seat the meeting human needs. Holiness, after all, isn’t about steering clear of sinners (Jesus didn’t do that) but about being set apart for God’s work. When we avoid doing God’s work of mercy to keep our religious obligations, we have misunderstood our religious obligations. If love is central, our faith will always call us to greater mercy, generosity, and love. Following Jesus means making the stranger into a Neighbor.
Questions for Reflection:
- Who are the strangers in my life? Do I love them or do I look for excuses to include them?
- Are there religious rules I keep that might make me less responsive to people’s needs?
- What can I do to make the strangers around me into neighbors?