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One Minute Sept. 2019 - Who Is My Neighbor? Thoughts after El Paso, Dayton and Gilroy.

A lawyer asked Jesus, “Who is my neighbor?” So Jesus told a parable. “There was a man who went down from Jerusalem to Jericho…” In this parable Jesus tells about a man on the Jericho road who gets attacked, beaten, robbed, stripped and left half dead. A priest steps over him. A Levite crosses over on the other side of the road. Then a Samaritan comes to the aid of the wounded man. He is moved with compassion. He binds up the man’s wounds, pouring on oil and wine. He places the man on his animal and takes him to an inn. He offers the innkeeper money for further care of the man and promises upon his return to pay the inn keeper whatever additional costs are incurred. “Now which of these three,” Jesus asked, “do you think seemed to be a neighbor to him who fell among the robbers?” The lawyer replied, “He who showed mercy on him.” Then Jesus said to him, “Go and do likewise.” (Luke 10: 30-37)

When the gunman in El Paso attacked and killed 22 people using a powerful assault rifle, he left 26 wounded and bleeding in the Walmart. When the gunman in Dayton shot 26 people, killing 9 outside that popular downtown restaurant and bar, he also left many wounded and bleeding. In Gilroy, the results were the same: the gunman killed and left wounded.

Many people were traumatized in these three cities. The man on the Jericho road was also traumatized throughout the parable that Jesus told about the man on the Jericho road. I asked myself, “who is my neighbor? Who cares for the wounded strangers in our midst?”

In El Paso, long lines of people gathered to donate blood. They stood under a hot sun for five hours or more. Dozens of others delivered water and sandwiches to those standing in line to donate blood. Who is my neighbor?

In Dayton, officials gathered to pledge their support for strangers who were impacted by the horrible event in their community. In Gilroy many residents from the surrounding neighborhoods gave money and support in various ways. Who is my neighbor?

The gunman in El Paso confessed that he was out to kill Mexicans. He spoke the language of racism and white supremacy. In Jesus’ day the Samaritans were hated in a similar way, yet the Samaritan in the parable is known as the Good Samaritan.

In contrast, the religious leaders in the parable Jesus told are identified as those who did nothing to help the wounded man. In present times, we might ask ourselves, “how does the church respond to such acts of hatred, killings and woundings? How does the church respond to racism, white supremacy or fascism? Would Christians walk by on the other side of the road? Would Christians be the ones who would come to the rescue of the wounded neighbor? Who is my neighbor?

How do we care for people of color? Do we harbor prejudice against brown and black people? How do we care for neighbors of a different ethnic background?

The events of El Paso, Dayton and Gilroy have stirred up our nation and our churches to ask deep and serious questions that we need to wrestle with. It makes us look deeper into the meaning of the parable that Jesus told. Jesus told this parable to inspire his hearers to care for the wounded strangers in our midst.

The Parable of the Good Samaritan defines a good neighbor as one who “shows mercy”. Rev, Martin Luther King, Jr, often wrote about the parable of the Good Samaritan. He wrote, “On the one hand we are called to play the good Samaritan on life’s roadside; but that will be only an initial act. One day we must come to see that the whole Jericho road must be transformed so that men and women will not be constantly beaten and robbed as they make their journey on life’s highway.”

Hate speech, racism, white supremacy philosophy, fascism and other forms of ugliness make the “Jericho road” of life a threat to many. The Jericho road in Jesus’ lifetime was known as the “blood path”. Events in El Paso, Dayton and Gilroy show that extremists still shed blood on the “Jericho road” of life.

Will you do what Jesus says and love your neighbor as yourself? Will you show your neighbor mercy and compassion? When you hear the question, “Who is my neighbor”? Will you know what to say and do and define what a neighbor is according to Jesus?

From the song “They’ll Know We Are Christians By Our Love” comes these verses: vs 1 “and we pray that all unity may one day be restored” and vs 3 “and we’ll guard each man’s dignity and save each man’s pride.”

Let us bind up each other’s wounds and do likewise with our neighbors regardless of their color, ethnicity, religion, and any other differences. Love is the greatest balm for those in pain or suffering or wounded. Jesus says to us “Go and do likewise.”

One Minute is written by Pastor Ron Rehrer, Counselor for Church Workers of our District, e-mail; phone 949.433.5182

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