Saturday, May 03, 2014

A Shift In Being - To Be A Neighbor (2 of 2)

In recent years, my work on "My Homewood" and "Homewood Nation," and with the Save Race Street Committee, have led to the fulfillment of a goal - to live in such a way that people ask me why I do what I do.

I worked out an answer which I have used consistently, with slight variation. I have told people that I have two reasons:

1) I have a King, and He has issued a command - not a suggestion, not a request - to love my neighbor. Working together with some of my neighbors for the good of all is a way of doing that.

2) I am a homeowner, and I want to increase the value of my house.

I gave that two-part answer (leaving out the second sentence of the first part for brevity) just a few days ago to Lauren Davidson of Pittsburgh Magazine, for a profile that they are publishing in the June issue.

After speaking with her, I remembered Jesus' conversation with "an expert in the Law," in which he told the parable of the Good Samaritan. Most people focus so much on the parable that they overlook the conversation, which is a shame, because Jesus does something pretty mind-blowing here. He responds to the question, "Who is my neighbor?" by refusing to answer it. Luke says that the very reason for the question was that the questioner wanted to justify himself - by having Jesus say who his neighbor was, he would then know who was not his neighbor, and therefore, whom he was not obligated to love.

Jesus sidesteps that completely, refuses to answer the question, then....trumps the Law itself. He basically says, "Forget about loving your neighbor. Just be a neighbor  - to whomever you encounter." Be the one who draws near.

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Dr. John M. Perkins said it years ago: "The highest calling of God is to be a neighbor." That immediately stuck in my memory, but I didn't get it for a long time, until I noticed the conversation surrounding the parable of the Good Samaritan.

I want to be the one who draws near. I want to become a great neighbor.
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