Who is My Neighbor and Who is My Enemy?

July 14, 2019

It is a great parable with so many layers.  It is the story of missed opportunities and the outsider filled with compassion.  It is a challenge to many who heard it in biblical times.  A Samaritan was an unspoken word, a group not to be associated with.  It is also a story of complete care.  The Samaritan doesn’t just respond to a situation to give only immediate help and then leave.  The care he provides is ongoing.  The care lives beyond the immediate need of the brokenness and pain.  He tells the innkeeper to continue care and he will take care of it.  This extra mile is a challenging extra mile.  When we respond to a need, do we follow up later?  Do we care for a person beyond the immediate contact?  We are all great at responding in the moment, but this parable tells us to go further.  While all of this is captivating and needs our meditation and reflection, I think the opposite is equally true.

Who is our enemy and why?  I propose that our immediate enemies might be found within ourselves.  Many times there is a battle between good and evil within us.  But if we quiet those voices to explore who our enemies are, we most likely go to a place of when and where we have been disrespected.  When a person disrespects us or someone or something we hold dear, we can become reactionary.  We feel deep pain and resentment and we want to react.  When we are pushed, we sometimes push back without even realizing it.  This can happen verbally or by the silent treatment.  This can happen by seeking to destroy the reputation or trust of that person with others.  When we are in the reactionary mode, we are not really responding.  Those who walked by the person in the parable without helping had their reasons.  They reacted by closing their hearts.  They chose to look inward.  The Good Samaritan responded in love and care.  He responded from the heart.  That is the difference.  There is a difference between responding and reacting.

Jesus invites us to not only look at who is our neighbor, but also who is our enemy.  How we define our enemy defines us.  In the Scriptures Jesus tells us to love our enemies.  No matter how we define them, they need to be treated with a loving response, instead of an unloving reaction.  To get to this place we must first define who our neighbor is and also who our enemy is and why.

Reverend  John J. Ouper