To Whom Can I Be a Neighbor?    


In Luke 10:25-37 we encounter Christ’s parable of the Good Samaritan, a story Jesus gives as a response when He is asked the question, “Who is my neighbor?”  Christ’s response really is “Wrong question!  The real question is “to whom can you be a neighbor?”  Archbishop Anastasios comments on the parable:

In one of the places where Christ speaks about the limitless, spontaneous love that expresses itself in action, he presents the Samaritan, a heretic, as a model for the rest of us. In this parable Jesus not only demolishes the old religious concept of ‘neighbor,’ but turns the static question ‘who is my neighbor?’ completely upside down, with a new dynamic question: ‘Which of these three, do you think, proved neighbor to the man who fell among the robbers?‘ (Luke 10: 36). Proving oneself to be a neighbor to any human being whatsoever, regardless of his race, religion, or language, and especially in his hour of need, is the obligation of every faithful Christian.  (FACING THE WORLD, pp 43-44)


Christ is asked “Who is my neighbor?” by a man who has a very juridical attitude.  The man is willing to love his neighbor, but wants a clearly limited definition of who his neighbor is.  Christ answers the question by reversing it: instead of defining who is the man’s neighbor, Christ says neighbor is not about the other person but is about you being neighborly to a anyone in need.  Christ’s answer is clearly we can be neighborly to anyone including a stranger or even an enemy. The issue is to love, not to define who qualifies as being neighbor.  I am to love those around me – I am to be neighbor to those I encounter in life. St Tikhon of Zadonsk comments on our relationship to our neighbor which if we obey Christ is to be one of love:

The second fruit of love is to feel sorrow for a neighbor in his troubles and to help him in his calamity. He who truly loves his neighbor cannot but feel his pain and have compassion on him on seeing him in poverty, and not but give him a helping hand when he is able. For love is compassionate. It sees someone hungry and feeds him. It sees someone thirsty and gives him to drink. It sees someone a stranger and takes him into its own house. It sees someone sick or in prison, and visits him. In a word, it helps him in every calamity. It suffers with those that suffer; it feels pain with those that are in pain, it consoles the sorrowful, for love is compassionate.  (JOURNEY TO HEAVEN, pp 158-159)


The least of Christ’s brothers and sisters (Matthew 25:31-46) are the people to whom we are to be neighborly. Love for the neighbor is not dependent on who the neighbor is, but on me being neighborly to whomever I encounter.

“If there is among you a poor man, one of your brethren, in any of your towns within your land which the LORD your God gives you, you shall not harden your heart or shut your hand against your poor brother, but you shall open your hand to him, and lend him sufficient for his need, whatever it may be. (Deuteronomy 15:7-8)