While we continue to uncover who our neighbors are, we should keep in mind that the concept of neighbor has changed drastically since the scriptures were recorded. Historically, small settlements of people made up communities, and members relied on one another for goods and services. Now, the village market covers the entire globe. We get produce from Argentina, coffee from Ethiopia, clothes from Bangladesh, electronics from China, and cars from Japan. We’re more connected now than we’ve ever been.
That said, the way we might have once interpreted the construct of neighbor deserves a new way of thinking. In the parable of the good Samaritan, Jesus intentionally made the two men central to the story come from very different backgrounds. One was Jew and the other gentile. They did not share the same customs or beliefs. They didn’t even know one another.
Our neighbors aren't just the people who live next door to us. They are the people who stock our stores and remove our trash. They are the people worshiping at the mosque or temple in our towns. They are the people who make our clothes and farm our food in a distant country.
Jesus calls us—his followers—to love our neighbors because God’s love is for everyone. The promise of the gospel is the hope of the restoration of relationships at a human and cosmic level—a restored relationship with God, with ourselves, with each other, and with creation. This promise is a hope offered to everyone, regardless of race, religion, nationality or gender.
Jesus said, “If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love; just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and abide in His love. These things I have spoken to you so that My joy may be in you, and that your joy may be made full.”
How wonderful a God we serve, that Jesus commanded us to love so that we may be full of joy. His is a kingdom so abundant in goodness and light, that His greatest pleasure would be calling us into a place of experiencing the deepest delight.