Who are the People in Your Neighborhood?

I’ve been ruminating on this topic for a few months now, and I just haven’t been able to adequately put my thoughts to paper. You know when you have something so good in your head and then you write it out and delete it because it sounds so dumb? That’s why I don’t have a journal. #overlyselfcriticalwriterproblems

I’ve also been hesitant to publicly provide rhetoric on the current state of the world because, well, it sucks. Like many, I become justifiably outraged by current events. But unlike many, I try to avoid debating topics of which I might not have all the information, which means I typically stay quiet on social media or during conversations…especially when I see people posting inaccurate facts or being hostile to one another. But hiding our heads in the sand isn’t going to make any kind of positive impact. I’ve attempted to cobble together my thoughts and emotions in one hopefully cohesive post that might help others struggling like me.

Yes, the world sucks. But honestly? It’s always sucked. Its suckiness is just in our faces more now because we have the information, pictures, videos, opinions, etc. at our fingertips and in our faces in an instant. But is it because humans suck? We’re definitely not perfect, and a lot of times we suck because we’re acting in our own best interests first. But God made each of us in His image. And God doesn’t suck, so if we’re in His image, deep down we don’t really suck either. Yes, there are some really sucky people out there doing some really sucky things. But most of us, regardless of theology or ideology, are pretty decent and want the best for everyone.

When I think about this, I remember Jesus’ parable about the Samaritan helping the robbed, beaten, and left-for-dead man on the side of the road.

People are fearful. And justifiably so. I’m fearful as a woman who could lose her reproductive rights. I’m fearful of the normalization of sexual harassment. I’m fearful for my black, Hispanic, Asian, gay, transgender, non-Christian friends. I’m fearful for our economy and our country’s relationships with other nations.

There are productive and unproductive ways to react to fear. Those who are lashing out at others, spewing hate online, and trying to impose sanctions that limit another’s rights are reacting to their fears of the “other” unproductively. Let’s counteract fear with faith, education and understanding. Who would have blamed that Samaritan if he’d reacted out of fear and left the man to bleed out and die on the side of the road, after the way Samaritans were often treated? But he responded counter-intuitively in faith, not fear.

It’s easy to fear the unknown or other by pointing fingers or imposing our beliefs through legislation, rules, muscle or intimidation. It’s much more difficult to have an open heart to someone different than ourselves. I’m not saying we need to invite every stranger from the street into our homes. But I am saying we need to rethink our definition of “neighbor,” and re-calibrate our brains and hearts to associate “other” as “neighbor.”

“Neighbor” isn’t limited to someone who lives near me, looks like me, talks like me and believes what I believe. “Neighbor” means those who live near and far, those who look like me and those who look different, those who talk like me and those who speak another language, and those who believe what I believe and those who don’t. “Neighbor” might mean someone in need; or someone living in a different town, state, or country; or someone with a different religion; or someone with a different skin color; or someone with a different sexual preference; or someone with a different gender.

When the lawyer asked Jesus, “and who is my neighbor?” Jesus responded with the parable of the Good Samaritan and then asked which of the three men acted as a good neighbor to the beaten man, the lawyer said “He who showed him mercy,” and Jesus responded with “Go and do likewise.”

To Jesus, “neighbor” was an all-encompassing word for person. What if we extended the meaning of “neighborhood” to world? What if we showed mercy to all our neighbors? What if we began considering every person a neighbor instead of a stranger?

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