Passing by on the other side

On this third day of Lent, I ask the age old question: Who is my neighbor?

This is of crucial importance to Christians who have been handed two great commandments from Jesus: love God and love your neighbor.

And any such question leads us to Luke 10, where we find the good Samaritan traveling on the road from Jerusalem to Jericho. He comes across the man in the ditch. He feels pity. He bandages and cares for the injured man. In the words of the Scripture, he shows mercy.

So, here is the question, especially in light of my fretting yesterday about March Madness. Is the command to love our neighbor one we follow only when we happen upon an opportunity to show mercy? If in the course of my day-to-day life I come across a person in need of mercy, I should not pass by the other side. But if I don’t come across any men bleeding in ditches – metaphorically or otherwise – then so be it.

That seems too convenient, doesn’t it? In our society where we build gates and cluster together and retreat from each other, it is remarkably easy never to come face-to-face with a person in need of mercy. We’ve built our world in a way that makes it easy to have an untroubled conscience.

Jesus famously said we will always have the poor with us. We’ve work pretty hard to prove him wrong. We come up with all kinds of ways to keep the poor, the sick, the dying, the unstable, the messed up, and the destitute people away from us. They might still exist, but we don’t bump into them at Starbucks or stumble upon them on our way to work with out ear buds in our ears and our eyes glued to a smart phone screen.

We made social blindness a high art.

For us, the love of neighbor requires putting ourselves in places where we might encounter the man by the Jericho road.

Or so it seems to me this third day of Lent.