Wanting to justify himself, he asked, “Who is my neighbour?”

Luke 10:29 (paraphrased)

This was the lukewarm response to perhaps the most profound words ever uttered.

But, let’s be honest, it’s a response we’re all familiar with, isn’t it?

Few of us, if any, have a problem with the idea of loving our neighbour. The tricky bit is determining who is included in the idea of “neighbour.”

Determining who’s worth loving.

The man’s impulse, we are told, was to justify himself: apparently Jesus’ statement had made him uncomfortable. Did it bring to mind someone he hadn’t considered worthy of his attention? Some neglected relationship? Some recent experience?

Who is my neighbour?

Or perhaps rather, “Who isn’t my neighbour?”

That was probably his—and our—real question, isn’t it? Who can I get away with not loving? Who is it okay for me to ignore? Who am I justified to exclude? Who may I rightfully consider unworthy of my attention, of my benefit of doubt, of my concern? Who is them to my us?

It’s a question I am, to my shame, all too familiar with.

By replying with the story of the Good Samaritan, Jesus flipped the script: the excluded person became. the hero who showed love to the one who would have excluded him, defying the natural instinct to get his own back.

Who is my neighbour?

Perhaps the lesson of the story is that that’s the wrong question, that we don’t choose who our neighbour is. That we, instead, discover our neighbour.

Who’s your neighbour? Look around you, Jesus seems to be saying here.

And don’t ask disingenuous questions.

[Inspired by a sermon at church. Photo credit: Gleren Meneghin.]

Published by Doc Ayomide

I’m a medical doctor with specialty training in psychiatry, and I love thinking and writing about what it means to be human.

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