"25 And behold, a lawyer stood up to put him to the test, saying, “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” 26 He said to him, “What is written in the Law? How do you read it?” 27 And he answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.” 28 And he said to him, “You have answered correctly; do this, and you will live.”
29 But he, desiring to justify himself, said to Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” 30 Jesus replied, “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and he fell among robbers, who stripped him and beat him and departed, leaving him half dead. 31 Now by chance a priest was going down that road, and when he saw him he passed by on the other side. 32 So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. 33 But a Samaritan, as he journeyed, came to where he was, and when he saw him, he had compassion. 34 He went to him and bound up his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he set him on his own animal and brought him to an inn and took care of him. 35 And the next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper, saying, ‘Take care of him, and whatever more you spend, I will repay you when I come back.’ 36 Which of these three, do you think, proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell among the robbers?” 37 He said, “The one who showed him mercy.” And Jesus said to him, “You go, and do likewise.”"
Now we all understand that Jesus basically raises the bar on what it means to be ones neighbor. I want to look at the second part of the Great commandment in verse 27. Jesus said:
- "Love your neighbor" - I have thousands of neighbors in my city that are American citizens, international students or refugees. They also happen to be Muslims. They pay taxes (even international students pay sales tax when they buy good and services in America), take the bus, work normal jobs, drive cars, have families, and watch television...just to name a few every day things. The same types of things I do on a regular basis. They are my neighbors. Just like the retired couples that live on my street, my coworkers, the grocery store clerk, and the waitress at my favorite restaurant. Muslims are my neighbors. And because they are my neighbors, Jesus commands me to love them.
- "As yourself" - This is the part that gets me every time. I definitely love myself, no doubts about that. That comes natural. I wake up every morning, wash myself for the day, eat a good breakfast, drive my comfortable car to my wonderful job, make sure I eat a good lunch, come home to have dinner with my family, spend time throwing my son on the couch and tickling him, and stay up with my wife after we put him to bed...to name a few things I do on a regular basis. Basically, most of these things I mentioned are natural ways I love myself. So Jesus commands that I have this same type of love for my neighbors (including my Muslim neighbors). So this would mean, I actually care for their natural well being. I care about whether or not my neighbor has something to eat or not. Can he/she get to work. Are they happy in general and can I add to that happiness in any way, shape or form. Etc. Etc. Great examples of being a neighbor are my neighbors John and Lois (who are normal, homegrown, Caucasian Americans). John is a delivery driver and drives all day long. We have been their neighbors for about a year now. Every once in a while, John stops by our house with some extra goodies to fill our fridge...things like juice, cheese, tortillas, etc. We are never out of extras in our fridge because of John. One day before winter, John came and dropped off wood for our fireplace. We never asked him to do this, he just did it. He did it because the last winter was rough here in the Seattle area, so John wanted to make sure me, my wife and our young son would have a warm home. WOW! This is one of the very few ways John and Lois has loved us just like they love themselves.
So, before I elaborate on why a specific, focused love for my Muslim neighbors, let me ask you:
1) Who are your neighbors? Focus on a few for the sake of these questions.
2) Are you going out of your way to love them as you love yourself?
3) Why is this so unnatural for us, especially if Jesus commanded it?
4) Who/what can give you the power and ability to accomplish this task?
5) What next steps can you take to love your specific neighbors as yourself?