Who is my Neighbour?

Martin B. Copenhaver has written a book called ‘Jesus is the Question – The 307 Questions Jesus Was Asked and The 3 He Answered’. He has concluded that Jesus was asked 307 questions, but only directly answered three.

I’m glad that Martin B. Copenhaver took the time to search through the Gospels and add up the questions. Such seemingly trivial facts are a stimulus to reflection. So how does Jesus respond when asked a question? He asks a question himself – he asked 183 questions- or tells a story, or both. He gives the responsibility back to the listener.

A lawyer asks Jesus what he has to do to gain eternal life. Jesus promptly asks him, ‘What is written in the law?’ The lawyer knows his stuff and promptly replies ,’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; and your neighbour as yourself.’ Jesus confirms that he has answered rightly. But the lawyer has one more question, ‘Who is my neighbour?’ Is it a genuine question, or has he been trying to catch Jesus out all along? Jesus proceeds to tell a story, one that has become very familiar.

A man is travelling from Jerusalem to Jericho and he is attacked by robbers, who strip him, beat him and leave him half dead. By chance a priest comes down the road, sees the man, crosses the road and travels on. A Levite (assistant to the Temple priests) similarly sees the man, crosses the road and passes by on the other side. But a Samaritan travelling the same road, sees the man, treats and binds his wounds, transports him to an inn, pays for him to be taken care of and promises on his way back to foot the bill for any further expenses. That is the answer to, ‘Who is my neighbour?’

There was huge animosity between the Jews and Samaritans. They really did not get on. Politics and religion were involved. Think Catholics and Protestants in Northern Ireland and Serbs and Muslims in Bosnia. What prejudice exists in my life that would mean I would rather cross the road than help? The priest and the Levite deliberately cross the road so that do not have to pay any attention to the injured man, because, if they did….. The Samaritan pays full attention to the man and his needs, and because he does, he acts compassionately. As Benedictine monk Laurence Freeman says, ‘Our neighbour is whoever we give our attention to’.

Chris Dawson

This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

Comments are closed.