What Kind of Neighbor Am I?
By Tracey Jessup
“‘Which of these three, do you think, was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of the robbers?’ He said, ‘The one who showed him mercy.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Go and do likewise.’” — Luke 10:36-37
During the past several months, the President’s Council on Christian Mission and Identity has been working on various initiatives that will strengthen the University’s visible Christian witness. One initiative is the mounting of plaques with the words of Jesus from Mark 12:29-31 at the entrance to all campus buildings. At the request of the Tucker Family, such a plaque has adorned the entrance of the Tucker Student Center since its dedication. Bob and Carolyn Tucker have given a similar plaque to all their children and grandchildren to place at the entrance of their homes, and they wanted the building that bears their name on our campus to be reminded of that same commitment.
Such was the inspiration for this initiative of the President’s Council. It is our prayer that whenever we enter any and every building on this campus, we will be reminded of the call of God upon our lives as followers of Christ in this community of faith and learning. “The first of the commandments is: ‘Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one. And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ This is the first commandment. And the second, like it, is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these” (Mark 12:29-31).
These words express the greatest commandments according to Jesus – the love of God and love of neighbor. Furthermore, these words are central to the motto of Gardner-Webb University – “For God and Humanity.” The mention of the word “neighbor” reminds me of a story Jesus told and the context of today’s passage, which parallel the words of Jesus in Mark 12:29-31 and include the greatest commandments. Most of us know it as the story of the Good Samaritan. A man traveling the road from Jerusalem to Jericho falls into the hands of robbers, is beaten, and then left to die. A priest and Levite traveling the same road, see the man but pass by on the other side. But a Samaritan saw the man and had compassion on him.
What one may not remember is that Jesus tells this story in response to a question from an expert in the law. He asks Jesus, “Who is my neighbor?” (Luke 10:29). While this appears to be a genuine question, one cannot help but wonder if the expert in the law is looking to limit the realm of his involvement and influence. In other words, how far does this neighborly love extend? However, after Jesus tells the story of the Good Samaritan the question worth considering and asked by Jesus is not “Who is my neighbor?” but rather “What kind of a neighbor am I?”
Commenting on this passage, Amanda Brobst-Renaud writes, “The image of God is borne by the one in the ditch. The image of God is reflected by the one who shows compassion and mercy. Those who pass by also bear the indelible mark of the Creator, inasmuch as the Bible reminds us that even when we turn away, God draws near to us” (“Commentary on Luke 10:25-37,” workingpreacher.org).
Prayer: Lord, when life leads us into the ditch, help us be true to your claim upon our lives by loving you with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength, and our neighbor as ourselves.
Dr. Tracey Jessup serves as vice president for Christian Life and Service and senior minister to the University. He isa graduate of Gardner-Webb with a B.A. in Music and earned his M. Div. degree at Samford University’s Beeson Divinity School. He completed his Ph.D. at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. He also teaches in the undergraduate department of religious studies and enjoys the opportunity to serve the local church through interim pastorates, pulpit supply, and preaching revival services. he and his wife, Teresa, have two children, Christian and Anna.