Who is my neighbour?

(Originally published in ACR, Sept 2005)

Who is neighbour?

The last person to ask this question ended up on the wrong end of a stinging rebuke from Jesus. So it is with caution that I reopen this question. After all, what Jesus said was clear enough; anybody might be our neighbour.

Which is where things start to go wrong for us; this anybody, it seems, is actually quite hard to find. By this I don’t mean we can no longer find people to love, rather the opposite. We meet more people than we can ever hope to remember the name of, let alone pray for, let alone love. Anybody is Everywhere.

And so we seek not so much to love our neighbour, but to love the world. We set out to love everyone, and so we go about implementing programs that are good for people in general, perhaps not realizing that to love everyone in general is to love no-one in particular.

And it is the particular person who misses out. We leave the one before us, in search of the 99 out there.

We have missed that our neighbour is someone. A person with a name and (probably) an address, and they might not need what we customarily offer, but they will need, and you can love them, even if you can’t love all of them. It is at once both liberating and challenging. It is liberating because we are free to respond to the call of Jesus and give ourselves over to loving some people and not others. It is challenging because we will have to give ourselves over to loving some people.

Remember God so loved the world. We are called to love our neighbour. It might be anyone, it can’t be everyone, it must be someone.