Pastor Shawn Hannon
Hope Lutheran Church Arcade, NY
As a kid growing up on the north side of Jamestown I had a pretty good idea what a neighbor looked like. With a yard not much bigger than my current living room, it was out in the neighborhood that I spent most of my time. Next door was my friend Jeff Drake. Behind us it was Mrs. Anderson—a widow who was usually sweet, that is, until one of our balls would accidentally fly over the fence into her yard. Watch out. Two houses down and across the street was a girl named Mary—my first baby sitter and the first love of my life.
Defining my neighbor was easy then. I lived among them, walked past their houses to get to school and delivered their newspapers. We had block parties where the city police would shut down our street so all we could set up tables in the road and the adults could party all night while the kids played hide and seek in everyone’s yard.
It was easier then for me to think about who my neighbor was, because my world was smaller. People on the other side of town might as well have been on the other side of the world. But as I grew up, something happened. Suddenly the other side of town didn’t seem so far away, and for that matter neither did the other side of the world. And either one of two things happened—either the world shrank or maybe my neighborhood just got a lot bigger. But either way, it’s been more difficult since to answer the question, “And who is my neighbor?”
But we aren’t the first to ask the question. In the gospel of Luke a lawyer is testing Jesus and he asks him a similar question. “Jesus,” he says, “who is my neighbor?” It’s that question that leads Jesus to tell arguably he most famous parable: the parable of the good Samaritan.
If you need a refresher you can find it in Luke 10, but in a nutshell it’s about a man who needs help and finds it in the most unlikely person. As Jesus ends the parable he asks the lawyer, “Who was the neighbor?” The lawyer answered, “The one who showed mercy.”
And it’s that line that spoke to me in a new way as I reread the story in light of what we’ve been witnessing in our world lately. You see, the man asked Jesus who his neighbor was, but Jesus never answered his question. Not really. Instead Jesus reminded that man how he could be a neighbor. Show mercy.
And that’s the reminder our world needs these days. We don’t need another meme reminding who our neighbor is. We need a refresher course in how to be a neighbor. Because we live in a world where it is very easy to see who the bandits are. We live in a world where it is very easy to see who the victims are. And in a world where it is very easy to see who is passing by on the other side of the street. What we need more of are neighbors. And that starts with us.
Because, whether we want to admit it or not, we all know the answer to the question, “And who is my neighbor?” What we’ve forgotten is what it looks like to be one. We can’t control the violence and devastation in our world. I wish we could. But we can control how we respond. May that now and always be neighborly.
For more inspiration and insights from Pastor Shawn’s past columns, please visit www.jamestowngazette.com and click on the Faith Matters page. The Jamestown Gazette is proud to present our county’s most creative and original writers for your enjoyment and enlightenment.