Giving, Getting, and Qualifying Neighbors
“But wanting to justify himself.”
A lawyer seeking his own security in eternity was looking for a loophole in the Law of laws. Let not familiarity with this story dull your heart in these days. With politicians, pulpits and people next door full of voices clamoring for caution and closed borders, we have much more to glean from Luke 10 than we may be willing to concede.
“And who is my neighbor?”
Luke’s account of this conversation allows us to see this lawyer’s litany of theological potholes. His driving self-preservation. His dismissal of social responsibility. Most worrying, however, is the name by which he referred to the Man before him: “Teacher.” Yes, Jesus is a Teacher—the prophet Isaiah described Him as the “wonderful counselor.” The trouble is, lots of men and women are teachers. The lawyer in Luke’s record lived in a day of many rabbis, many teachers—and likely, “few fathers.”
As the “greatest humanitarian crisis of the century” brings historically unreached and unengaged peoples to our shores, cities and suburbs, the overwhelming response of the categorically professing American church has been to “close our borders.” This worries me for several reasons—not the least of which being the widespread confusion between “Disciple” and “Republican.” Is Jesus our Lord, or is He simply our Teacher?
Yet I am encouraged. Nothing has confronted our nationalism quite like this crisis. Nothing has betrayed our anti-Arab xenophobia since 9/11 quite like this crisis. Nothing has caused us to question what we white-knuckle quite like this crisis. But what if this is less a question of national security, and a better reminder of eternal glory? The lawyer’s first question to our humble, meek and mighty Jesus was this: “What must I do to inherit eternal life?” His question was met with no refutation—so eternal life is within our grasp through faith in Christ by the grace granted by the same Power which raised Lazarus and that Man from Nazareth alike out of the grave.
We have an unprecedented opportunity. Our neighbors are changing. And we don't get to pick who they are. While the testimony of the Church to the Arab world for the last several centuries has been something like “No, we don’t want to go there,” the Lord, in His sovereignty and kindness, has brought many of these historically unreached people “here.” Some are called to go. Some aren’t. Whichever you are, you have an opportunity to love your neighbor because you love your Lord.
When we lay aside our natural inclination to self-preservation and contentment and “pick up our cross,” we are empowered by grace to give. When we live by the “law of the Spirit,” we get so much more than we could ever achieve by our own gain. When we stop qualifying who is and isn’t our neighbor, we might just encounter something in the God who gives Himself freely to those who seek Him.
So whether we move to Iraq or invite asylum-seekers over for dinner in suburbia, “let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” Let us present a beautiful witness of the God who became a bondservant. Are there risks? Yes, relationships run risks. Will you regret it in eternity? No, you most definitely will not. Live and love God today, for tomorrow has its worries of its own.
Stephanie Quick is a writer and producer serving with Frontier Alliance International in the Middle East. She is the author of To Trace a Rising Sun and can be found on on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. Sign up for her ministry updates here and receive a free copy of her book Confronting Unbelief. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
 Isaiah 9:6
 I Corinthians 4:15
 Amnesty International. “Syria: The greatest humanitarian crisis of our time.” 2015. Retrieved from https://www.amnesty.org.nz/syria-worst-humanitarian-crisis-our-time
 Fantz, A., Broomfield, B. “More than half the nation’s governors say Syrian refugees not welcome.” 2015. Retrieved from http://www.cnn.com/2015/11/16/world/paris-attacks-syrian-refugees-backlash/
 See Luke 9:23
 Romans 8:2; Galatians 5:16
 Jeremiah 29:13; James 4:8
 Hebrews 12:2
 Philippians 2:5-7
 Matthew 7:34