Howdy Neighbour!

Are YOU my neighbour?

by Edward Langenback

© 06/17/03

Many of us can remember "Mister Rogers Neighborhood", a highly successful children's show that ran on public broadcasting stations for years. In the U.S. at least, there are probably very few people over 20 who cannot remember him singing his trademark song "Would You be My Neighbour?". Sadly, there are many of us who do not know that if we would obey God's commandment, then we would all answer the question in Mr. Rogers' song with a hearty "YES!".

Leviticus 19:18, "Thou shalt not avenge, nor bear any grudge against the children of thy people, but thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself: I am the LORD."

This scripture is the basis for some of the most important teachings in the New Testament. Jesus considered it to be one of the two most important, basic foundational commandments. So important are these basic commandments that all of the law and the messages of the prophets hang on them.

To love God with all of one's being is the first fundamental commandment. It is the basis for much of the law, of what God sent the prophets to proclaim and what Jesus taught.

The first example is when Jesus made the famous "Love your enemies" statement:

Matthew 5:43-46, "Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy. But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you; That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust. For if ye love them which love you, what reward have ye? do not even the publicans the same?"

The first thing He shows is that a commandment of God has been turned into an 'old saying' or tradition. People have been mistaking traditions and sayings for scripture for thousands of years. It's always best to get out a Bible, checking that it really does say such and such, making sure it hasn't been taken out of context before you teach it to others. Jesus took this saying and taught from God's commandment of Leviticus 19:18. What does that have to do with loving your enemies? Everything.

In Lev 19:18, the word 'neighbour' is translated from the Hebrew "rea`" {pronounced ray'-ah} or "reya`" {pronounced ray'-ah} [strongs number 7453] and means friend, companion, fellow, another person, other, another.

When 'neighbour' is used in Luke 10 verses 27,29 and 36 it is translated from the Greek word plesion {pronounced play-see'-on} [strongs number 4139] and means a neighbour, a friend, any other person, and where two are concerned, the other. Any other person irrespective of race or religion with whom we live or whom we chance to meet.

The use of these words means that when God says 'Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself' it's clear that He is NOT simply talking about the person who lives next door or down the street. Rather, your neighbour is any other person you encounter. Jesus illustrated this in the parable of the good Samaritan.

Luke 10:25-28, "And, behold, a certain lawyer stood up, and tempted him, saying, Master, what shall I do to inherit eternal life? He said unto him, What is written in the law? how readest thou? And he answering said, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy strength, and with all thy mind; and thy neighbour as thyself. And he said unto him, Thou hast answered right: this do, and thou shalt live."

The question that this lawyer asks is important but not for the reason that he asked it. It establishes that this person who studied God's law actually did agree with Jesus on several points, the most important one being that we should love our neighbours the same as we love ourselves.

Luke 10:29, "But he, willing to justify himself, said unto Jesus, And who is my neighbour?"

But then he wanted to pick at details because he was looking for exceptions. The lawyer wanted to be justified in not loving everyone. He wanted to be able to tell himself that certain people whom he did not want to deal with or didn't like were not actually his neighbours.

Jesus was right there with a parable to show everyone who would listen the answer to the man's question.

Luke 10:30-37, "And Jesus answering said, A certain man went down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell among thieves, which stripped him of his raiment, and wounded him, and departed, leaving him half dead. And by chance there came down a certain priest that way: and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. And likewise a Levite, when he was at the place, came and looked on him, and passed by on the other side. But a certain Samaritan, as he journeyed, came where he was: and when he saw him, he had compassion on him, And went to him, and bound up his wounds, pouring in oil and wine, and set him on his own beast, and brought him to an inn, and took care of him. And on the morrow when he departed, he took out two pence, and gave them to the host, and said unto him, Take care of him; and whatsoever thou spendest more, when I come again, I will repay thee. Which now of these three, thinkest thou, was neighbour unto him that fell among the thieves? And he said, He that shewed mercy on him. Then said Jesus unto him, Go, and do thou likewise."

This story makes clear that of the three people who saw the man who had been robbed and beaten, only the Samaritan treated him like a neighbour and loved him as he would love himself. The lawyer had to admit as much when Jesus asked which one was neighbour. Jesus finished answering the man's question by telling him that he should follow the illustration of the Samaritan.

This is the example that we should all follow. The Samaritan was putting into action God's commandment to love his neighbour as he loved himself. This is the same thing that God did in giving us the gift of Jesus and the forgiveness of sins that He made possible. God gave us the right to become His children. If we have indeed become His children then we should act like children in one most important way:

Ephesians 5:1, "Be ye therefore followers of God, as dear children;"

The word followers in this verse is translated from the Greek word mimetes {pronounced mim-ay-tace'} [strongs number 3402] and means an imitator. We have probably all seen the little boy that wants to be "just like daddy". He has toys that reflect things his father does and likes. If daddy has a workshop then his son will pretend to do the same things daddy's doing in his shop. God expects us to imitate and strive to be like Him the same way a child will do with his or her parents.

Think back and remember Fred Rogers once again. Singing his song that asked the questions: "Would you be mine?", "Could you be mine", "Won't you be my neighbour?". Now think for a moment about Jesus.

Matthew 11:28, "Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest."

God is asking you. "Won't you be my neighbour?" He wants you to be His neighbour and see what happens when God loves HIS neighbour! Talk to Him about it today. Life is hard and you are carrying a heavy load of worries, fears, needs and oh so much more. Go to Him, and He WILL give you rest and peace of mind and spirit unlike any you have ever known.

Are you one of God's children? Then act like a child . . . Imitate your Father in Heaven! Love YOUR neighbour just like He loves His neighbour! Who is your neighbour? Go back and re-read the definitions. Everyone is your neighbour!