Who is my neighbor? Who is my brother?

Luke 10:25 – 29 And, behold, a certain lawyer stood up, and tempted him, saying, Master, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?  He said unto him, What is written in the law? how readest thou?  And he answering said, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy strength, and with all thy mind; and thy neighbour as thyself.   And he said unto him, Thou hast answered right: this do, and thou shalt live.   But he, willing to justify himself, said unto Jesus, And who is my neighbour?

We all love the answer Jesus gave, the story of a  man who was injured.  The religious people passed him by and only a Samaritan man, who was considered unworthy, stopped to help.   The good book also says that God gives to all life and breath and he has made of one blood all nations of men.  He has also decided when and where they would live on this earth.  Why?  So that they would have the best chance that they could possibly have to find God.  (Ac 17:25 – 27)

So, who is my neighbor?  Who is my brother?  When we were children, in our all white neighborhood, we used to tell Polish jokes.  We also used to make fun of certain other nationalities.  Then I began to teach English to a variety of foreign people.  Over the years of my career, God has allowed students from almost every nation to sit in my classroom.  There have been multiple misunderstandings due to differences in culture, but as the years go by meeting students from all over the world has become  a treasure to me, a wonderful lifetime lesson in finding out who my  brother and my neighbor are.  Over and over I had to face the very people that I used to make fun of.  As children, we sometimes would insult one another by calling one another a certain race of supposedly small people in Africa.  Then one day I found myself face to face with a student who came from that very tribe, which is properly called the Batwa and whose people are lovely and actually not all that small.   I had to admit to God that I had been prejudiced and spoke about things concerning which I had no knowledge.

After many years of such experiences, God has allowed me to see his nature in all of my wonderful students.  At times they don’t get along.  Their cultural differences are too great in subtle ways that they don’t recognize and sometimes won’t admit even when someone points it out to them.  The Hispanics are quick to answer and the Asians prefer to wait a moment.  Is either one wrong?  No!  They are just different.  Imagine if God’s world were only like Oz, everything just green.  It would look lovely, but think of all the other colors that we wouldn’t even know that we were missing.  Our God is a great God.  We are created in His image.  His image is not just flat or one-sided.  God has an infinite number of exquisitely wonderful qualities that are displayed in His creation.  If we could begin to appreciate those differences in each other and celebrate them, we would not only get along a whole lot better, but also we would begin to know our Father and Creator.  We would become rich in our experience and wisdom.  We’d really learn to live Jesus’ words about loving our neighbor.

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