Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. asked it.
What are you doing for others?
It’s really a simple question but one of profound importance. It is the question on which we evaluate our lives. The second command Christ gave, “Love your neighbor as yourself.” is the benchmark.
But how does one go about loving their neighbor? Well, the first thing I need to kniw is: who is my neighbor? I choose to interpret this as broadly as possible. For me, my neighbor is anyone with whom I come in contact. Of course, this includes family, friends, and co-workers. It also includes casual acquaintances, the coaches and parents of my grandson’s soccer team, and the people who live next door.
Okay then, now that the “who” part is answered, the next question is “how?” The answer to this one is a little more difficult. To answer this one, I try to put myself in the other person’s shoes so to speak. Thinking about what my neighbor might be going through and then meeting that need.
Maybe they need someone to just listen. Sometimes people just need to feel heard. So much of our time is spent running from one place to another “getting things done.” We get all caught up in the busyness of life that we forget to stop and just listen to one another. We avoid eye contact so we don’t have to get involved in a conversation. We rush out the door after church to avoid getting caught up in a conversation with the older lady we know lives alone. An easy way I’ve found to do the “how” part is to ask if there is anything I can do. Ask if they would like to get coffee. Invite them for a meal.
You know how the question, “How are you?” has become another way of saying hello. No one really wants the answer. Sometimes when someone asks me how I am a wonder what they would do if I told them the truth. I mean on the days I’m not doing so great. Would they just walk by as if I had given the expected answer of “Fine!”? Would they look at me like I had just grown horns out of my head because I departed from life’s script? Maybe they would say, “Let’s find someplace quiet to talk.”
Why is it so hard for us to show care and concern for each other? What happened to our compassion?
The Bible records unbelievable actions of a Samaritan toward a Jew: “But a certain Samaritan, as he journeyed, came where he was. And when he saw him, he had compassion.” Luke 10:33 NKJV http://bible.com/114/luk.10.33.nkjv. You might be wondering what is so special about this event. The Jews and Samaritans held each in little regard. They spoke not to each other and would cross the road to avoid coming in contact with each other.
The person the Samaritan came across was a Jew. Not only did he have compassion. But he acted in that compassion. So often we will voice our sadness at the fate of someone but we don’t spend any time helping. The Samaritan went above and beyond for a stranger who had been left to die along side the road. The account continues, “So he went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine; and he set him on his own animal, brought him to an inn, and took care of him. On the next day, when he departed, he took out two denarii, gave them to the innkeeper, and said to him, ‘Take care of him; and whatever more you spend, when I come again, I will repay you.’ So which of these three do you think was neighbor to him who fell among the thieves?” And he said, “He who showed mercy on him.” Then Jesus said to him, “Go and do likewise.”” Luke 10:34-37 NKJV http://bible.com/114/luk.10.34-37.nkjv.
It’s easy to do for others we enjoy spending time with. It’s easy to do for those we share common interests, but what about the homeless, the hungry, the poor, widows, orphans, or the sick. These are more difficult and we shy away.
Lord, please open my eyes to the needs of my neighbors and help me try to meet them! This doesn’t mean I need to try to change them, but to love them where they are and show them Your compassion.