One outcome of tragedy is that it further polarizes existing opposites. Everyone retreats to their respective corner. We use the tragedy to reinforce our stereotypes and justify our worldview. By this, we are driven further apart.
In the last 30 days we've had multiple national tragedies. Orlando, Baton Rouge, St. Paul, and Dallas are a few. We have retreated to poles such as:
Christian vs. Muslim
Pride vs. Anti-gay
Trump vs. #nevertrump
Black vs. White
Jesus gave the Great Commandment:
“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself” (Luke 10:27).
Then Jesus told a story about a Samaritan who risked his life and spent significant resources to save a man left for dead along a road. In the story, the injured man is given no description. He could be anyone – gay, straight, Muslim, Christian, Republican, Democrat . . .
The Samaritan pays no attention. All he sees is a neighbor in need. The question was asked of Jesus, “Who is my neighbor?” The implied response is, “Who isn’t my neighbor?”
According to Jesus’ story, you don’t get to choose your neighbor. A neighbor is anyone present before you. The question isn’t, “Are you my neighbor?” It is, “Will I show you love? Will I extend mercy?”
“One cannot define one’s neighbor; one can only be a neighbor.” - Gerhard Friedrich
One of the following people may be your polar opposite, but if they are in need of love they are your neighbor nonetheless:
An NRA lobbyist.
A police officer.
A young black man with sagging pants.
A Trump supporter.
A Hillary supporter.
A rural farmer.
An urban academic.
Christian martyr Dietrich Bonhoeffer called Jesus “a man for others.” Christ exemplifies the Great Commandment. He is the ultimate Good Samaritan. He took the side of the victim, the one in need. Even unto death.
There is much talk of love in the aftermath of tragedy. I find it all rather superficial when compared to the author of the Great Commandment. For him, the whole world is filled with his neighbors. They are often cranky, selfish, and violent neighbors. Yet he remains “a man for others.” May we strive for this kind of love.