When I was young, my mother warned me about strangers even though as a child, I was quite the social butterfly. The reality was this piece of advice was often difficult to heed. I recall one conversation when I was probably around six years old after the mailman politely said goodbye as he finished chomping on a cookie I had offered him. “Daira, you can’t keep inviting strangers in….it’s very dangerous.” I paused and sighed, “But mom, the mailman’s not a stranger, he delivers our mail every day!” In retrospect, the grace of God was good to me because my need for meeting strangers was an on-going occurrence. However, I can’t help but think that as adults we take this ‘meeting strangers’ thing a little too seriously – a conditioning from adolescence that we never truly move past.
One day when Jesus was teaching and going about his normal routine a man stopped him and began to inquire about eternal life. Jesus stressed the Law to the man and asked his thoughts on it. The man replied,
“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 love your neighbor as yourself. “You have answered correctly,” Jesus replied. “Do this and you will live. But… the man wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”
When I read this Scripture, I can’t help but think this ‘mystery man’ was a bit sarcastic to ask an established teacher, “oh, yea…well, who is my neighbor?” Don’t worry though, Jesus was not intimidated!
Perhaps, you know what happens next, Jesus tells the famous story of the Good Samaritan. The short note version is as follows: a man gets beat up on a dangerous journey from Jerusalem to Jericho. In fact, this route was often called “The Way of Blood.” I don’t know about you, but I think I would be recalculating my GPS if my drive consisted of a 50/50 shot of being attacked on the roadside. But nonetheless, a man was robbed and no one called or stopped to help him. Basically, 911 was too inconvenient for everyone that day. Guess who the ‘too busy’ people were that didn’t lend a helping hand? A priest (pastor) and a Levite (a modern day worship leader)…..ouch! If this was in present day times, this would mean text messages or phone calls kept coming in and these two holy rollers would have kept walking. Yet, a Samaritan, a person within a hated people group during that time, showed mercy to a complete stranger. I guess back then parents didn’t have to warn their kids about strangers….or maybe, just maybe, nothing has changed at all! Is it possible that the people who lived hundreds of decades before us were still weary of strangers like we are today? What happened to “love thy neighbor?” If this is possible, then what made the Samaritan different?
I believe we need a different outlook. We need a child-like faith in people. We need to see everyone as a neighbor. These neighbors are not the people who live next door or the friends that ‘like’ our posts on Facebook, these neighbors are perhaps strangers to us at this very moment. What stops us from changing someone’s life forever? William Butler Yeats has a quote I love that says, “There are no strangers here; only friends you haven’t yet met.” What if this became your motto? How would your life change by opening yourself up to new people and loving them even if they were previously a stranger to you? Let me tell you friend, you would be living life like Jesus intended.