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We become neighbors when we are willing to cross the road for one another. There is so much separation and segregation: between black people and white people, between gay people and straight people, between young people and old people, between sick people and healthy people, between prisoners and free people, between Jews and Gentiles, Muslims and Christians, Protestants and Catholics, Greek Catholics and Latin Catholics. There is a lot of road crossing to do. ~ Henri Nouwen
Who is my neighbor? The question is never satisfied with a qualified answer. For some reason we struggle with it in so many ways. Gun violence and murder in our schools, Black lives matter, Blue lives matter, and a cry of #metoo all plead the same question. It has resonated in the hearts of people for more than two thousand years. It can even be found as a scriptural directive.
Bishop Michael Curry told us about the great commandment of love at the wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle. He said; “Jesus of Nazareth on one occasion was asked by a lawyer to sum up the essence of the teachings of Moses, and he went back and reached back into the Hebrew scriptures to Deuteronomy and Leviticus and Jesus said you shall love the Lord your God, with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind and all your strength. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it: love your neighbor as yourself.”
The Good Samaritan shows us how to become a neighbor. He crosses the road to help a stranger and takes the risk of reaching out to a perceived enemy. The injured victim becomes a neighbor. He is given kindness and compassion by a stranger where he had been ignored or avoided by his own people. The neighbor generously rises above community expectations and common practice both in giving and receiving.
Who is my neighbor today? Possibilities for an answer will be presented to us around every corner. We will have chances to cross the road on more than one occasion. That friend who has become an irritation is waiting for the hand of forgiveness. The young person who looked so threatening could use an encouraging word.
The one who celebrates a religious practice unlike our own can be asked to lunch for an enlightening exchange of ideas. The person of another race seeks our genuine brotherhood. We cannot hope to receive love if we are not willing to give it. We cannot claim to be members of the human family if we do not rise above that which causes separation. We must cross the road and become a neighbor.
The world is waiting. Someday we will discover that everyone is our neighbor.
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Robert Kenneth Jones is an innovator in the treatment of addiction and childhood abuse.
In a career spanning over four decades, his work helping people recover from childhood abuse and addiction has earned him the respect of his peers.
His blog, An Elephant for Breakfast, testifies to the power of the human spirit to overcome the worst of life’s difficulties. We encourage you to visit and share this rich source of healing, inspiration and meditation.
Contact Bob Jones on Linkedin
Bob Jones’ blog An Elephant for Breakfast