Sunday, January 17, 2010

“Be a good neighbor”

In Luke 10, a man asks Jesus what he must do in order to inherit eternal life. Jesus asks him what the law of Moses says, and he succinctly says, “You must love the LORD your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your strength, and all your mind.' And, 'Love your neighbor as yourself.” This is good theology in general, but becomes especially good when applied to culture.

The man asks Jesus (to clarify), “And who is my neighbor?” Jesus, as usual, doesn’t give him a straight answer, but tells him a story to illustrate what/who a neighbor is. Being a good neighbor crosses cultural barriers, and allows people to truly love and care for each other. The Samaritan in the story was someone that was culturally disliked by many, yet he was the story’s hero by the end of it.

In this story, the neighbor was one who showed mercy for another person. So, to be a good neighbor is to show mercy to others, and also, to love those who are the most difficult to love.

After the novelty of being immersed in another culture wears off, it can be easy to be picky about all of the differences you see between the new culture and your own. The new culture can be “those who are the most difficult to love” because everything is so different and foreign. It may also be very difficult to love a culture (or, specifically people in the culture), because loving them as you love yourself just does not seem to be working.

For example: Person A is from a very individualistic culture, and has always had to figure things out on his own. Person B comes from a culture that values teamwork, and likes to figure out complex tasks as a group. If Person A lives in Person B’s culture, and has to solve a problem, Person B’s culture will be a good neighbor by surrounding Person A with all of the best thinkers and brainstormers they can find, leaving Person A feeling overwhelmed and irritated, because ‘if he could just get a moment alone to think, he could figure this out!’ Both people in the story would “love their neighbor as themselves” differently.

That is why so many well-intentioned missionaries seem to force their beliefs and their culture on others. If something works in their culture, why wouldn’t it work in another? Does loving your neighbor as yourself really mean that you treat others exactly how you would want to be treated? Or is it something deeper than that? Loving your neighbor as yourself is realizing the other person’s most urgent need, and learning the best way to care for that person. That is how I would like to be treated, and therefore, that is the way I will aim to treat others – whether they come from the same culture or not. And this will all flow from the first part of the theology, which is: loving God with everything in your being.

1 comment:

Laura said...

wrote for a class

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