Who Is My Neighbor?

Pastoral Messages | May 9, 2024

“What do I need to do to obtain eternal life?” This is my favorite question that Jesus is asked, and it can be found in the 10th chapter of Luke’s Gospel. Sometimes, we think of eternal life as a destination we reach after death, but scripture teaches us that it’s not just about getting to heaven. Eternal life is about living a life closely connected to God, where every breath and step is a blessing and source of great joy.  

The question that was really being asked of Jesus was, “How can I live a life filled with everlasting peace and joy that overcomes death, despair, and evil?” Instead of giving a long, drawn-out theological answer, Jesus responds with a question of his own, “What’s written in God’s Law? How do you interpret it?” The man answers, “That you love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind; and love your neighbor as yourself.” “Good,” says Jesus. “Do this, and you’ll have it.”  

But the man still sought clarity and asked, “And just how would you define neighbor?” Jesus responds with the story of the Good Samaritan. Samaritans were rivals, enemies, and of a different religion than Jewish people. Yet in his story, Jesus positions the Samaritan man as the one who loves his neighbor. Not the Rabbi, not the Jewish priest, but the Samaritan.  

Jesus, including the Samaritan, would be like a pastor, including a Jew or Muslim in their idea of who can inherit eternal life. It’s a radical story from our Lord, who seeks to teach us that the religious boundaries we lay often get in the way of eternal life for us and our neighbors.  

In Berlin, Germany, a remarkable project is underway. A building symbolizing unity among the three monotheistic religions of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam is being constructed on the foundation of the old St. Peter’s Church. This campus will house three distinct worship spaces, a synagogue, church, and mosque, which will be interconnected by a central space of encounter known as the “Domed Hall,” named for its round vaulted ceiling. This project is a symbol of hope, addressing the reality that our increasingly diverse world needs peaceful places where the differences between neighboring religions can be transcended through shared experiences among groups that have historically been in conflict. 

The Quad Cities do not have a House of One yet, but our communities are becoming increasingly diverse as well. We are presented more often than ever with opportunities to interact with and learn from people who are different from us, religious or otherwise. By embracing these opportunities to care for, connect with, and learn from our neighbors, we can model our lives after the Good Samaritan and see that our similarities and goodness outweigh our differences. This brings us closer together and helps us recognize that what divides us is trivial compared to the common bonds that connect us as created and beloved children of God. 

-Max Franks, pastor in residency

3 Comments on “Who Is My Neighbor?”

  • Anke Maass

    May 17, 2024 at 7:02 pm

    Great reminder to love and be kind to each other

  • Janette Schmidt

    May 11, 2024 at 11:07 am

    Thank you! An encouraging message. The one building in Germany is inspiring!

  • Deborah Lamp

    May 9, 2024 at 1:34 pm

    A very good message and reminder to always love another.

Leave a Comment