Who is my neighbor?

I remember my first long road trip. My family didn't take vacations when I was growing up, so it wasn't until I was 20 or so that a friend of mine invited me to ride with him out to Colorado to pick up another friend. We were going to take two weeks for the whole trip, including driving through Las Vegas, the Grand Canyon, and the world's biggest ball of twine. Just kidding about the last one.

One of the roads we eventually spent some time on was US-50. At first, I didn't think much of it, but then I realized that Columbia Parkway and Wooster Pike in Cincinnati, my hometown, was US-50. I had lived in an apartment on Wooster Pike when I was growing up. That's when it hit me... the houses we were passing (over a thousand miles away) has sort of been my neighbors. I mean, we lived on the same street so didn't that make us neighbors? I was little tempted to stop and ask for a cup of sugar.

My world got a little smaller that day. I thought about the parable of the Good Samaritan. Jesus affirms that to inherit eternal life, we must love the Lord our God with all our heart, and with all our soul, and with all our strength, and with all our mind; and your neighbor as ourselves. But then the million dollar question comes... who is my neighbor? That road trip forced me to realize that anyone with whom I share space is my neighbor. Now, I can choose to limit the space to my home, my street, my community, my city, etc. However, being on that road and acknowledging that people a thousand miles away could be my neighbor challenged me to consider anyone and everyone my neighbor.

I believe that every human being is created in the Imago Dei, the image of God. Every single one of us has the fingerprint of the Eternal in our fragile bodies. If we can respond to each other with this in mind, we can truly begin to see God's "kingdom come and will be done on earth as it is in heaven." It may sound sappy, but it will work.

But what to do when we treat others this way, but they do not? Does that give us permission to deny the presence of God in them? No, it does not. Even when the Imago Dei in me is trampled upon, I must still respect, and even love, the reflection of the Almighty in my neighbor. Perhaps that willingness to love, even in the face of injustice, will win over the enemy.

This does not mean we love injustice! But we must love those who perpetrate such things. Gandhi loved his British oppressors. He knew, or rather believed with all his heart, that they would eventually see the error of their ways and grant self-government to India. He further knew that when that day came, it would be better for him and the movement he inspired to have dealt kindly, despite the fact that they were rarely afforded the same kindness, with their oppressors; for, one day they would have to deal with each other as equals, and Gandhi was building a future partnership and friendship with those he once might have seen as enemies.

It's amazing to me to consider having that type of hope for people I tend to deem as enemies. To think that they one day could be friends, and to choose to treat them as such even before they stop their cruelty, is a true mark of faith.

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