Loving Your Neighbor as Yourself

36 “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”

37 Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments” (Matthew 22:36-40)

A few years ago my older brother passed away suddenly and unexpectedly. While he and I were never particularly close, we were by no means estranged either, though in our adult lives we had lived in different cities. We would talk on occasion. We just didn’t have a lot in common. And once I declared my profession of faith in Jesus Christ 15 years ago we had even less in common. It’s not that he was outwardly hostile to me or my faith; he just didn’t want to hear about it.

While my brother didn’t seek out conflict, he did not shy away from confrontations as certain situations presented themselves. My brother had an ingrained sense of ‘right and wrong’, and when he felt that he or someone else in his presence, including a total stranger, was being disrespected or taken advantage of, he was vocal in his opposition. And he wasn’t afraid to back it up physically if push came to shove, so to speak. Though broad shouldered, he was short in stature (our family is by and large a bit smaller than average), but you just knew not to mess with him!

Almost 25 years ago, my brother decided he could no longer work for “the man.” He had always had a rebellious streak and, thus, had some difficulty with authority. Consequently, he began working on his own as a mobile car mechanic.

Generally, he was more comfortable with others who were much like him. Hence, on the flip side, he had long harbored a bit of prejudice against non-whites. Also, as far as I can remember, he didn’t much care for non-heterosexuals. He also didn’t like any sort of pretense, especially from the more affluent in society.

With all the foregoing in mind, I received the shock of my life while attending his funeral.

25 On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?”

26 “What is written in the Law?” he [Jesus] replied. “How do you read it?”

27 He answered, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’”

28 “You have answered correctly,” Jesus replied. “Do this and you will live.”

29 But he wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”

30 In reply Jesus said: “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he was attacked by robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead. 31 A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. 32 So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. 33 But a Samaritan,* as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. 34 He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, brought him to an inn and took care of him. 35 The next day he took out two denarii** and gave them to the innkeeper. ‘Look after him,’ he said, ‘and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.’

36 “Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?”

37 The expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him.”

Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.” [Luke 10:25-37, NIV]

*Samaritans were a mixed-blood race of Jews and Gentiles. Jews considered Samaritans ‘unclean’; and, generally, the two groups were openly hostile to one another.

**A denarius was equal to one day’s wage.

My brother’s funeral was relatively well-attended. “Would this many people come to my funeral?” I thought to myself. There were quite a few who got up to speak kind, heartfelt words about my brother. It was very moving. Among these were an in-the-process transgender (male to female) and a gay man.  There was a mix of races represented.

The common theme in their words was in how my brother would go well out of his way to fix his customers’ vehicles. On the phone with my brother one time, I recall him mentioning to me how he was going to a salvage yard to secure a part to place on a customer’s car. Apparently, when faced with a car problem involving an individual of very limited means, my brother would call around to find the part(s) in a salvage yard, instead of buying the necessary part(s) new. This may even have involved the extraction of the part(s) from the vehicle; yet, it was obvious my brother neither charged for the labor of taking the part from the salvaged vehicle, nor his time and travel to and from the yard. Or at least he didn’t charge enough to break even on that portion. My brother had a heart – a big heart – to help those less fortunate. And he himself was hardly doing well financially.

My brother was literally a poor (wo)man’s car mechanic. He helped the disenfranchised and disadvantaged. It didn’t matter who you were. He may not have followed a great business model, but he sure modeled loving your neighbor as yourself.

That day at his funeral, I was proud to call him my brother. However, the events of that day caused me to look inwardly: Was I really loving my neighbor as myself? Do I really do enough for my neighbor?

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