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Sesame Street Was Wrong. Who is my Neighbor?

“Who are the people in your neighborhood, in your neighborhood? In your neigh-bor-hood? Oh who are the people in your neighborhood, the people that you meet, when you’re walking down the street, the people that you meet each day?”

I heard those words, sung by a happy shiny, multi-cultured array of kids everyday for years…

Today, I realized they were wrong. Accidently.

He answered: ” ‘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, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.'”

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

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

Three times today, I ran headlong into those words.  “”Who is my neighbor?”

In reply Jesus said: “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he fell into the hands of robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead. A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, took him to an inn and took care of him. The next day he took out two silver coins 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.'”

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

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

Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.”

What do the words mean?  I’m not sure I really know. But, this picture is in my mind…This challenge is in my heart.  It’s raised questions…lots of questions…

“Who is my neighbor?” On the surface…that’s easy.. I could even tell you their names…(Hey, I’m missional.. I know my neighbors.. Mostly.) Today, when I read the words I saw something I hadn’t seen there before-Something I’ve glossed over a thousand times…

The Samaritan was traveling. The distance from jerusalem to Jericho was almost 18 miles.

He was most likely NOT walking his donkey through the neighborhood.

What does “Taking pity” on someone mean?  Pity has negative connotations now…it smacks of condescension and charity.  But what I saw was a man seeing the pain of another and acting to heal it.  DO I do that?  Well- if someone was beaten and bloodied I probably would… but what if it’s another Mom, and she’s been beaten and bloodied by her life?  What if I can’t see or understand her pain?  Do I act to heal it.. or do I stand in judgement?

“She should have known better,  You make your bed, you lie in it, You get what you ask for, Cause and Effect…”

My own un-caring words haunt me. I’m “nice” enough not to say them out loud.. but I’ve thought them.. about Moms beaten by their  work, their finances, their lifestyle, their choices and their own prickly personalities and pasts…

Pity doesn’t always come into play.

Fear often does.

I’m often afraid to touch the hurting…  their pain could  hurt me. I’m afraid to reach out to a mom who’s different, because she may reject me.   I’m afraid to try and heal another moms wounds… because what if I can’t? What if I fail?

Instead, I keep walking.  I think: “She’s not my neighbor. If she were my neighbor– she’d live closer to home. Closer to my life… closer to my heart.”

Right?

Except…. that’s NOT the story Jesus told.

The beaten man and the Samaritan couldn’t have been more different.

Do I take her somewhere she can be cared for? Well.. sometimes.. if it’s not out of my way, or too far out of my comfort zone..or if she WANTS to go…or if she does the first time I ask her… (mumbling under my breath..)

Here’s the thing… is that how I care for myself?  Is that how I need OTHERS to care for me?  Umm no. I can be a real jerk.  I don’t like to NEED anyone’s help. I’m a perpetual preschooler.. “I can do it all by myself.” I need to be asked more than once.. I need to be given a chance to emotionally react to your pitying me.. (It makes me angry.. cause you’ve seen through my very carefully developed cover.)  If I were bloodied on the side of the road, and someone came up to me, I’d be defensive.. ready to protect what was left of myself.

If I met ME, bloodied and bruised on the side of the road.. I would be patient with my defensive response…

Am I patient with the bloodied neighbor Mom I meet who’s defensive toward me?

No- I process it as rejection… I leave her be.

What if I really lived out this scripture.. what if I took pity  on her?

What if I replace the word Pity with Mercy?

What if pity and mercy mean understanding someone else’s experience and caring for them.. even if they are different from me? What if loving another mom as I would myself means.. even if it’s messy and hard and uncomfortable and awkward and at first shes defensive and I’m afraid and I mess up?

What if we don’t speak the same language?

What if .. what if.. what if…

I stopped asking quetions and did it anyway?

I think I will.

Join me?

It starts with walking a mile in her shoes…

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