Today I found myself at a conference hosted by the Evangelical Fellowship of Canada which is a Canadian lobby group that petitions politicians for things like the conservative definition of marriage, human trafficking, the sanctity of all human life, and other moral hot buttons. The speakers did a fantastic job at presenting - through stats, numbers, and case studies - the cultural realities facing Canadians today and are doing an amazing work on the Hill.
However, what I wanted to talk about is the audiences response to a presenters question, "Who is your neighbor?" The more and longer I listened to peoples responses, the more and more I became agitated and, eventually, flat out angry. People had some real compelling and biblical arguments to support their claim and justification as to why they had no need to know their actual neighbor. Responses like, my real neighbors are my co-workers, the people at my gym, and that weird high school buddy who keeps calling for decades and decades. Though these people are people who need Jesus and who should see the Gospel at work in our lives, conference attenders kept leaning on the Good Samaritan crutch to tell us why they didn't know their actual next door neighbor. Too busy. Long tiring commutes. Language barriers. Religious and political differences. A bad smell. Excuses.
I don't think that Jesus meant for us to forsake our actual neighbors nor does he give us excuse to do so. He does, however, expand our context of who our neighbors are and calls us to a life of self-sacrifice for God's glory and our neighbors good. As I sat there listening to the feel good excuses, I thought of the many people in my building of widely diverse backgrounds, worldviews, language groups, and experience who God has brought into the proximity of my life simply because we are neighbors. I thank Jesus for the people I live around and pray for them regularly realizing that many of the excuses offered today can play havoc on my responsibility to be a good neighbor. However, when we take the responsibility to be a good neighbor seriously, I guarantee that the excuses will be overcome.