Background: Our church Life Group meets at our house on Friday evenings. Right now, we are reading a book about racial reconciliation called “More Than Equals” by Spencer Perkins and Chris Rice. We are on Chapter 4, which focuses on knowing who your “neighbor” is as Jesus intended. It seems like an easier concept to grasp than it is. First of all, Jesus did not intend for us to show kindness only to people who are lovable. He noted that anyone can do that. Really allowing God to change our hearts enables us to love the unlovable.
A helicopter arrived and hovered over the house. Then sirens. More helicopters. I joked that I was having flashbacks to our days of living in Inglewood. We all laughed, and then spoke a little louder so that we could hear over the distracting noise. Our book paraphrased the biblical parable about the good Samaritan, and then suggested we read the actual story in the Bible. We did, and we began to debate who was and was not our neighbor. More helicopters arrived and hovered over the house. What about the the person I thought was my friend who stabbed me in the back? More sirens. What about the next door neighbor’s son who used really offensive terminology to inform us that a gay couple lives down the street? Helicopters still hovering loudly. What about Republicans? (Kidding.) My husband noticed a news truck parked at the entrance to our street. So anyway, was Jesus suggesting that we have to be kind and generous to someone after they hurt us or just that we be open minded to a group of people who tend to oppress?
My sister, visiting from GA, was working on some writing in another room. She came in with a worried look on her face. “I’m sorry to interrupt, but can we pray for whatever is going on out there? It sounds really serious.” “Oh! Yes! Of course!” we all replied as we suddenly realized the noise we were trying to talk over might actually be a call to prayer. It turned out that a drunk driver had been running from police, exited the hwy and while crossing a bridge near our house had smashed into another car. The damage was horrendous and everyone had to be cut out of their cars. Thankfully, nobody died.
We had been doing EXACTLY what Jesus was preaching against in our lesson! We were so focused on our curriculum and getting through the chapter in our book that we didn’t even think to notice the practical application LITERALLY just outside the door. Wow. Duh.
Who is my neighbor? My neighbor is anyone God tells me to embrace. Will I change my focus from my to do lists and agenda so that I can hear the nudge next time?
Book Question: What would the racial climate be like if we lived out unconditional forgiveness for others?
Notes from group meeting:
- Things we can learn from putting ourselves in situations and groups outside of our comfort zones: it’s possible, and we are stronger than we thought; we learn more about other perspectives; no group will ever be 100% what we want
- In loving our “neighbor” as Jesus taught, what does that mean regarding people who are an immediate threat? Types of people who are probably a threat? People with belief systems we want to avoid?