Yesterday afternoon as I watched the news reports of the incredible flooding of Houston neighborhoods, streets, and even interstate highways, I was soon struck by the unselfish kindness of complete strangers coming to the aid of others.
Volunteers were coming with their boats to rescue families trapped in their homes. Older people who were helpless in nursing homes. And some stranded in their cars.
One news commentator observed that it was ”the worst of times bringing out the best in people.” Another said, “Yes, it is neighbor helping neighbor.”
While watching, I was reminded of the question the lawyer put to Jesus, “Who is my neighbor?”
Jesus’ response was the parable of The Good Samaritan journeying the dangerous road from Jerusalem to Jericho. In the story, a man was robbed, beaten, and “left half dead.” A Priest chanced to come along. Saw the wounded man. “But passed by on the other side.”
Later a Levite came by. Stopped. Looked. But also “passed by.”
Finally, it was a Samaritan man, one who was despised by the Jews that rendered aid to the hurting stranger. The Bible says, “when he saw him, he had compassion.” His pity was translated into action as he attended to his needs and even paid for his lodging at the Inn.
“So which of these three do you think was neighbor to him who fell among the thieves?” Jesus asked the lawyer.
The answer was painfully obvious to the lawyer who piously wanted to “justify himself.”
Note the neighbor in the parable was not the injured man, but the Samaritan. He was “neighborly” toward a fellow human being who needed his help.
While we typically think of the word “neighbor” as a noun, the dictionary also defines it as a verb. “To be gracious, kind or helpful toward a fellow human being.” As a kid, I can remember older people using the word “neighbor” as a verb meeting to visit, to associate, or to help.
To neighbor to the needs of others can arise in unexpected, and sometimes serious, life threatening situations. Like the flood in Houston. Gordon MacDonald was right when he wrote, “Your neighbor is the man who is next to you at the moment.”
We all would like to have friendly neighbors. To live in proximity to people that we like. Enjoy associating with. And feel a common affinity. Yet, real life has a way of expanding our neighborhood. It is seeing people who are hurting. Helpless. Stranded on life’s highway. In some cases, literally. And being a neighbor to them.
In watching the news yesterday, it was interesting that so much of the rescue work was being accomplished by amateurs, not the professionals. It was ordinary, every-day folks who saw their fellow human being in trouble and rushed to help. To rescue from danger. To neighbor.
It’s good to remember that we don’t have to wait for a dangerous deluge to assist someone in need. There are almost daily opportunities to lift a helping hand. To say a kind word. Or to offer comfort to someone who is hurting.
Being a good neighbor begins with the right attitude toward others and issues itself in good and godly actions.
To whom can you neighbor today?
–Ken Weliever, The Preacherman