Ah, Mister Rogers. Life was so simple with this man and his sweater vests. He desired to be our neighbor. He wanted to help us. Unfortunately, we live in a time when we are lacking that type of compassion to one another.
Someone who has truly experienced mercy loves to give mercy to others. It becomes a habit. Showing mercy to someone might include forgiving them or it might include meeting a need of theirs. Christ commanded us to love our neighbors. You might be wondering: “Who exactly is my neighbor?”
Jesus has been asked that question before. Read about the account in Luke 10:25-37:
25 Just then an expert in the law stood up to test Him, saying, “Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?”
26 “What is written in the law?” He asked him. “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 your neighbor as yourself.
28 “You’ve answered correctly,” He told him. “Do this and you will live.”
29 But wanting to justify himself, he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”
30 Jesus took up [the question] and said: “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho and fell into the hands of robbers. They stripped him, beat him up, and fled, leaving him half dead. 31 A priest happened to be going down that road. When he saw him, he passed by on the other side. 32 In the same way, a Levite, when he arrived at the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. 33 But a Samaritan on his journey came up to him, and when he saw [the man], he had compassion. 34 He went over to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on olive oil and wine. Then he put him on his own animal, brought him to an inn, and took care of him.
35 The next day he took out two denarii, gave them to the innkeeper, and said, ‘Take care of him. When I come back I’ll reimburse you for whatever extra you spend.’
36 “Which of these three do you think proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of the robbers?”
37 “The one who showed mercy to him,” he said.
Then Jesus told him, “Go and do the same.”
To answer the question concerning who is one’s neighbor, Jesus told the story we call “The Good Samaritan.” You might have heard this story so much that it has lost its effect on you. This story, when Jesus told it, would have shocked and offended many people within earshot.
Jesus depicts the most religious people of the day as without compassion and unconcerned. He mentions a priest and a Levite who walked by this man in great need. Both of these distinctions indicate these men were very religious with differing spiritual responsibilities. The classification of a Samaritan indicated someone who was ethnically on the outside of society, and yet he was the one who came to help.
Think about if this story had been told by Jesus in your context. What type of people would Jesus have used today?
Who would be the religious people? Who would be stereotyped like a Samaritan?
Based upon your recent actions in addressing others’ needs, in which category do you best fit?