This past Monday there were two pressure-cooker bombs that exploded at the finish line of the Boston Marathon killing three and injuring 170, some severely. There was a quote making its way around social media; a quote from Mister Rogers from years ago: “When I was a boy and I would see scary things on the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.’” Boston is not the Neighborhood of Make-Believe, but we did see the helpers, didn’t we? We saw people running toward the devastation; rushing to help in any way they could.
It was a great illustration of what Jesus meant when he told the parable of the Good Samaritan in Luke 10:25-37. You know the story. Did you ever notice the subtle twist in the answer that Jesus gave to the teacher of the Law who asked him, “Who is my neighbor?” After telling the compelling story, Jesus answered the question by asking another one; “Which…do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of the robbers?” The emphasis went from who is my neighbor to whose neighbor are you? In other words, it is not about you and your relationship to the person, but about them and their need. Thus as a follower of Christ, my neighborhood is wherever I am and my neighbor is to whomever I show mercy.
The other day, I was walking a few blocks from my home and saw a very frail old woman (even older than me) in a house coat and slippers in her front yard. She had a shovel and was trying to dig a hole (I assumed) in which to plant a flower. I said good morning and she didn’t answer, but looked at me with a mixture of desperation and fear. I kept walking, trying to process what I saw and thinking that if I had stopped to help her she might have freaked out. Suddenly it hit me; I was justifying myself by trying to figure out whether she was my neighbor and capable of receiving my help. In reality, I was her neighbor by virtue of the fact that I saw she needed help. So I circled back and found that she had collapsed… just kidding. I found that she was just going into her house, so I walked home realizing that I had missed an opportunity to show mercy.
The “helpers” in Boston may have hesitated because of fear, but they rushed back into devastation because there was a need in the “neighborhood.” And Jesus said, “Go and do likewise.”