It’s different today. It used to be that we visited with our neighbors, the folks next door or down the street. Today we might wave at each other as we back out our driveways or speed down the street. Or maybe we just get a cold stare. So, if we take the declaration of Jesus seriously that the only two things we need to do are: first, to love God above all and love our NEIGHBORS as we love ourselves.
Oops. That means we have to find our neighbors. Are they just the people who live near us? Well, there’s a story Jesus told about the good Samsritan. He was raised in the prejudices of the time. He hated Jewish people and Jewish people hated his “kind.” Well, some Jewish guy got beaten and robbed. All these Jewish guys passed him by…even a rabbi! But here comes the Samaritan. What does he do? By golly, he picks the guy up, washes his wounds, bandages him and asks the innkeeper to do whatever is needed to get the guy on his feet. He came back that way, too and paid the rest of the bill. The question Jesus asked the listeners was: “Who was neighbor to this man?”
How can we transfer that ancient story into modern times? Actually it can translate into any person we run into being the neighbor we need to love. The neighbor can range from our family members to strangers who might need just a smile from us to some one with a real problem.
One big problem in all of this is that we don’t always love ourselves. In the lack of love we have for ourselves, we too often project what we donn’t like in ourselves onto the people we rub elbows with and get into a spot where we can’t give them loving ways because we can’t love ourselves and end up judging instead of loving. So, maybe the neighbor we first have to love is the person inside ourselves.