Neighborhood. The very word evokes a friendly tenor. One envisions people chatting over the back fence, gathering at the corner, or kibitzing comfortably on a park bench.
Christ Jesus’ well-known parable of the good Samaritan (see Luke 10:29-37) begins in response to the simple question, “Who is my neighbour?” Jesus tells the instructive tale of a traveler who exhibited genuine love for a robbed and beaten stranger on the side of the road. Samaritans were despised by the Jews, but in Jesus’ parable it was the Samaritan who “had compassion on him ... bound up his wounds, ... and brought him to an inn, and took care of him.” Before the Samaritan left, he instructed the innkeeper to care for the man, at the Samaritan’s own expense.
Jesus’ point in telling this parable is simple but direct: “Go, and do thou likewise.”
This wasn’t just a lesson in human kindness. Jesus was teaching the two great commandments: “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” (Luke 10:27).
The first command requires us to place God first in our thoughts, prayers, and affections. When we do that, we are guided into unselfish actions that help our neighbor. Mary Baker Eddy, the Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science, wrote: “On this basis the brotherhood of all peoples is established; namely, one God, one Mind, and ‘Love thy neighbor as thyself,’ the basis on which and by which the infinite God, good, the Father-Mother Love, is ours and we are His in divine Science” (“The First Church of Christ, Scientist, and Miscellany,” p. 281).
Listening for God’s guidance as we walk, work, and watch in our communities provides the spiritual alertness and readiness to practice the second command: to love our neighbor as ourselves. And what a wonderful opportunity it is to love our community enough to pray for it!
One day, during my early-morning prayers, I felt especially compelled to pray for my neighborhood. Looking out the window, I gazed at houses full of people I had never met. With joy I affirmed man’s spiritual identity and inseparability from God (see Genesis 1:26, 27). I knew God’s tender watchfulness is universally true for everyone. As the Psalmist promises, “He shall cover thee with his feathers, and under his wings shalt thou trust.... For he shall give his angels charge over thee, to keep thee in all thy ways” (Psalms 91:4, 11). Each of us is embraced in the loveliness of divine Love.
Later in the morning, my 18-month-old daughter and I were lingering outside our home after a walk. Suddenly, my daughter made a quick run for our house. I followed, and just as we reached our front steps, a school bus came careening around the corner and across the sidewalk where we had been strolling, then crashed into our fence.
Acutely aware of how protected my daughter and I had been by heading to the house seconds before the bus came into view, I gratefully acknowledged God’s protecting presence right there. I prayed about each of the children on board as well. Remembering my early-morning prayer, I reaffirmed that no one is left out of the tender embrace and universal law of Love.
The driver and I were able to open the rear doors of the bus, and the kindergartners on board freely hopped out the back and sat down comfortably on the grass. Although there were broken windows and bent metal and the bus had toppled a telephone pole, not one passenger had been injured. My prayerful preparation helped me in comforting the children, who had been startled by their rough ride; and my daughter brought smiles to their faces as she shared hugs. In very short order, school and emergency personnel appeared, expressing gratitude, seeing the children safely resting on the lawn.
It is certainly not necessary for us to go on a long journey to find someone in need. There are things to pray about right in our own neighborhood. Placing God first and loving Him with all our heart, soul, strength, and mind opens the door for spiritual inspiration and preparedness. We can all strive to stay alert to opportunities to express the loving neighborliness of a good Samaritan and witness God’s healing presence.
This article was adapted from an article in the Nov. 10, 2014, issue of the Christian Science Sentinel.