Just sit with this for a moment and meditate on it.
“You should not ask, you should act. The question Who is my neighbor? is the final question of despair or hubris, in which disobedience justifies itself. The answer is: You yourself are the neighbor. Go and be obedient in acts of love. Being a neighbor is not a qualification of someone else; it is their claim on me, nothing else.”
– Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Discipleship (pg. 76)
This is a fresh perspective for me, although it is nearly a century old.
Bonhoeffer, if you are unfamiliar with his works, is well known as a modern day martyr of the Christian faith. He stood against the tide of nationalism that carried the Nazi powers into ruling Germany. He opposed the very ideals of the movement that ushered in the second world war. Ultimately, Bonhoeffer paid the highest possible price for his opposition to the extremism of his day.
What is remarkable, when you read his works, is you see he protested out of love for his neighbor. The cost of love compelled him to take a perspective that rejected the question of “Who is my neighbor?” By contrast, he asserts the true question is, “Who considers me to be their neighbor?”
The one who looks to us as a neighbor is due our acts of love.
Today, like in all times, when we consider the words of Jesus and truly take into account the Greatest Commandment, it transforms us. It moves us to action on behalf of those who are less-than. We are compelled to act in love for the outsiders.
Read anew this passage from Matthew.
37 Jesus replied: “ ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ i 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ j 40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”
– The New International Version. (2011). (Mt 22:37–40). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.
Then, consider this, who looks at you and considers you to be their neighbor?
If they, your neighbor, were to make a decision for Christ – based solely on how you treat them – what conclusions might they make?
How then should we live our lives?