A man hearing the teaching of Jesus asked, who is my neighbor?
We’ve heard the story so many times that perhaps our ears close as the familiar words wisp past us.
But, listen again to the question: Who is my neighbor?
Jesus answers the question by helping us identify the proper conduct of one who is neighborly. He describes a good neighbor based on how we act toward others in need. In order to do this we are introduced to a man who is beaten, broken, disposed, and in deep need.
Jesus affirms that the second most important command relates to how we treat people in need.
A bad neighbor is one who passes by. They ignore the hurt, the suffering, and the needs of others. They are preoccupied with their own needs, their own wish list, and their own agenda. Religious people – yes, Christians – can be bad neighbors.
We probably all have ways we justify our poor neighborly behavior. But should we really?
How many times have I walked past someone who needed a neighbor?
Attributes of a Good Neighbor
1. They recognize the need.
They see the hurt and pain. We live in a world that has an overwhelming amount of hurt, pain, suffering, hunger, and famine. Sometimes the easiest thing is to simply ignore it. After all, we are too busy to make it a point to seek out hurt and pain.
2. They respond to need.
This is the hardest thing for me to do. I’ll be driving down the highway, and there’ll be a broken down car on the side of the road. Before I figure out what’s going on, I’m already miles down the road. Then starts the excuses. A person may come up to me and ask for something, and typically I dismiss the request before I’ve even heard what they have to say. I’m busy. I’m focused. I’m goal-oriented. Sometimes my neighbors get in the way, and I move on to the next task. This is not being a good neighbor.
Instead, I must learn to stop, listen, and respond.
3. If they are able, they give what is needed.
After seeing the hurt and stopping to assess the need, the good neighbor in Jesus’ story uses his own money to help put the man up in a hotel. There may be situations where we are unable to provide what is needed. But, what if we are able? Then to be a good neighbor, we must assist.
I don’t know how many times I’ve read the story of the Good Samaritan and shaken my head with disappointment at those cold religious leaders who refused to help a hurting man. Then I humbly look in the mirror and wonder if my actions don’t more frequently parallel the actions of those men instead of the Samaritan.
How to Become a Better Neighbor
1. View all of life as ministry.
Don’t just set aside Sundays for God. Readily admit that, though we make plans, it is God who directs our steps (Prov. 20:24). Open yourself for God given disruptions to your day. Realize that God’s agenda for your day should always trump your own. Stand ready.
2. Pray continuously.
When I was a kid, I thought this was a very dangerous Bible teaching. I wondered how people could drive and pray since praying always included the closing of eyes. However, I’ve realized this is an openness and constant search for God’s will throughout the day. Always ask the question, “God, what would you have me do in this situation?”
3. Educate yourself.
There is suffering, hurt, and hunger all around the world. The news doesn’t always bring those situations to our attention. To be a neighbor, you must seek those who are hurting.
4. Be a steward.
All we have belongs to God. We ought to manage our resources as if they belong to God and not just ourselves. How would God want us to use our money? Clearly God is pleased when we use our resources for God’s will and not just our own.
When Jesus finished telling this story, he said, “Go and do likewise”. So go, and do likewise!
What do you do to be ready to respond as a good neighbor when the situation arises? What other attributes do you think a good neighbor possesses?