Who Is My Neighbor?

“Which of these three, do you think, proved neighbor to the man who fell among the robbers?”

James Tissot (1836-1902), “The Good Samaritan”
James Tissot (1836-1902), “The Good Samaritan” (photo: Public Domain)

A lawyer went up to Jesus one day. He wanted to test him. So he asked what one must do to inherit eternal life. Jesus directed this lawyer to the law, “What do you read there?”

The lawyer, a good student of the law, recited, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself.” With this, Jesus affirmed him saying, “Do this, and you will live.”

But the lawyer pushed further, asking the question that we all have in our hearts: “And who is my neighbor?”

Jesus looked at him with love. He looked him right in the eye and he told the story of the Good Samaritan.

This past week as I questioned the Lord in prayer about how to respond to the unrest in our nation, in my own Twin Cities. I too am a student of the law, the moral law. Jesus told me the same story. But instead of Jews and Samaritans, the characters were more familiar.

Even after slavery ended in the United States, after a gruesome war, black people were still treated as half-citizens, or worse. Yet many who saw them passed them by. Others did even worse. They lynched them and left them dead. They used unjust laws and practices to keep them in segregated neighborhoods, bound up in poverty and systematic prejudice.

More than 50 years ago, African Americans fought for more liberties despite continued resistance, aggression and even more violence. Some strides were made for equality, but not enough. Some laws changed, but not enough hearts and minds did.

So many neighbors of ours are still oppressed. Poverty and prejudice leave scant room for them to rise out of their plight. Some people still hold the false, evil belief that people of some races are inherently less important than others. Many more people ignore the evil of racism still present in our country.

I was one of those people who couldn’t see that racism still exists, until just 11 miles from my home where I am raising my children, George Floyd was killed by Minneapolis police officers.

In my prayerful reflection on the parable of the Good Samaritan, Jesus asked me, who are you in this story: the priest or Levite who passed by because one was too hurried on important ministry to stop and the other too afraid or too pure to sully himself? Or the Samaritan, the one who looked on the man with love, and said, “This man is my neighbor?”

The truth is, George Floyd was my neighbor, not because he lived near me, but because he is a human person created in the image of God.

I have spent all 30+ years of my life speaking against abortion, defending the rights of the unborn. I claim to be a conservative, seeking to conserve what is good in the world, trusting in the democracy laid out by our nation’s forefathers. The tragic killing of George Floyd made me examine anew the history of our nation — not only the strengths but the sins.

When I see the sins of racism, not only historically but even now, I see that alongside my prolife advocacy to protect the unborn I should also seek to protect the lives of black men and women.  My condemnation of racism should be more than just condemning it in my heart, and saying to myself, “Well, I for one am not a racist. I don’t hate people of other races. I love everyone.”

I have realized that now is the time for me to sit down on the side of the road with those who have been beaten, robbed, and left half dead for four centuries, and bind up their wounds with my concern, pour on the oil of listening to their stories, and bring them to the inn and seek to pay for what has been done to them.

I am convicted now that if I do not stand up and speak out against racism, if I do not seek to be a neighbor to those of different races, if I do not take it to prayer and ask God what he wants me to do to help overcome the evil of racism, I cannot call myself pro-life, for there are lives that I do not care for.

Jesus finished his story with a question to the lawyer, “Which of these three, do you think, proved neighbor to the man who fell among the robbers?”

The lawyer replied, “The one who showed him mercy.”

Jesus again looked him straight in the eyes and said, “Go and do likewise.”

(Scripture taken from Luke 10:25-37.)

Michelangelo, “Creation of Adam” (detail), Sistine Chapel Ceiling, 1508-1512

From One Man God Made All Nations

“The equality of men rests essentially on their dignity as persons and the rights that flow from it: ‘Every form of social or cultural discrimination in fundamental personal rights on the grounds of sex, race, color, social conditions, language, or religion must be curbed and eradicated as incompatible with God’s design.’” (CCC 1935)