When the learned man stood to test Jesus, his motive, as a lawyer, was to expose contradictions in Jesus’ testimony and thereby discredit Him. I picture Jesus, totally unthreatened, saying, “Thank you, I’m glad you asked.” At this point the lawyer may have even thought he had lulled the country boy to sleep with his feigned deference to Him as “Teacher.” Jesus replied with words this man had known since he was a child: “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.

At this point, the lawyer may have been the one disarmed. This familiar command, coupled with Jesus’ authentic respect, may have moved this man’s heart. Jesus then plies His trade, exposing the lawyer’s heart, and ours, saying: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.

Our lawyer, caught off guard, yet still nimble of mind, managed “Yes, but…who is my neighbor?”

The story Jesus tells in response is familiar to us. A man is waylaid by a band of robbers and left alone to die. Both a priest and a Levite (God’s men) “pass by on the other side,” leaving the victim as they had found him. But a Samaritan (a religious and social inferior) has compassion and cares for this man. The Samaritan takes ownership of the man’s health, making what resources he had available until the victim regained his health.

I could picture a tribal man from some remote jungle, after observing our culture, returning home and reporting, “They are a people who pass by on the other side.” He might then add, “At high speed!”

The pace of our busy lives does not allow us to slow down enough to see the waylaid souls around us. In western culture overdrive, we are just a blur to each other, as far as our hearts are concerned. While we are progressing technologically, are we not in decline socially? Do we see our bondage to this materialistic, production-oriented culture? Oh well, at least at high speed we can keep our resources for ourselves. (Sarcasm intended.)

The lawyer thought he had cornered Jesus, but Jesus had cornered the lawyer—and us. Who is our neighbor? According to Jesus, it is anyone we encounter who has a need or a burden we can relieve by sharing of ourselves and our resources. As members of God’s family on earth, our obligation is to assume ownership of one another’s well-being until we are all whole.

Our culture is not going to voluntarily slow down. Individually, we are going to have to exit the freeway of our own accord. We are going to have to downshift from over drive into a more efficient gear. At our new pace, our neighbors will no longer be a blur. We can ask them, with sincerity, “How are you doing?” Perhaps as we do, like our Samaritan, our compassion will be awakened. By really listening, we create safe spaces for others. In this secure place, they can discover who they really are and the extent to which their souls have been robbed or are being robbed. And perhaps, in the process, we will see what has been robbed from us.

Communities are safe spaces of connected people who, by nature, ward off the isolation that give robbers opportunity in the first place. If we are to pass Jesus’ test, we will discover that we are each called to become our brother’s keeper. As His friends and children, we are to take ownership of the space around us for the sake of His kingdom.

Father, may Your love triumph. May we discover the nature of our oneness. May we learn to defer to one another and consider the needs of others above our wants. Give us the courage to slow down and really look at those around us. Awaken our compassions and transform them into those many deeds, which you have prepared beforehand that we might walk in them. Amen.



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