Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. The second is this: Love your neighbor as yourself. There is no commandment greater than these.
“It’s a beautiful day in the neighborhood! A beautiful day in the neighborhood. Would you be mine? Could you be mine? Won’t you please, won’t you be my neighbor?” Maybe you remember that sweet song sung by the lovable and kind Mr. Rogers. I grew up watching him change his shoes and his cardigan at the beginning and ending of every show as he sang the song that is etched forever in my memory.
Controversial though it may be, today is the day that you could interact with more neighbors than any other day of the year. Typically children, dressed for the most part in cute little costumes, come traipsing and tripping up your steps in hopes of some candy or a treat, parents lingering in the darkness of your yard making sure that all children are accounted for. That doesn’t mean you won’t have some scary costumed children covered in fake blood come to your door that you’d rather not encounter.
Unfortunately we live in a society where it’s easier to come home in the evening, close the garage door and never see our neighbors. Maybe you’d rather not turn your porch light on tonight because you don’t believe in Halloween and trick or treating. But that’s not my point, or maybe it is.
Recently I was reading about the Good Samaritan. You may remember how a man was robbed and left for dead on the side of the road and a Samaritan, a despised person of mixed ethnicities was the unlikely neighbor who stopped to help this man when the religious people wouldn’t.
The parable began as an answer to a well-educated lawyer’s question to Jesus about what he had to do to inherit eternal life . The lawyer knew the answer found in scripture was to love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.
But, the lawyer wanted to justify himself and asked Jesus, “Who is my neighbor?” That’s when Jesus told him the parable of the Good Samaritan. The lawyer was looking for a formula on how to treat others, especially the ones who are socially, religiously, economically or ethnically different from him. Maybe he expected Jesus to say it was ok to avoid those dressed like zombies and have opposing beliefs. I imagine he was thinking that Jesus would give him that easy answer.
However, Jesus turned the question upside down on the man’s head with this parable and rather than focusing on the noun, who is my neighbor, He asked who acted neighborly? Jesus’ focus was not on whom to show our love, but on the act of loving. The emphasis being the condition of our own hearts.
Who is your neighbor? Do they look different than you? Believe different beliefs? Talk differently? Live by different standards? Do they celebrate Halloween and you don’t? I feel like Jesus is telling me in this parable, “Go LOVE THEM without reserve.” That’s what He told the lawyer. “You go, and do likewise.”
Ask God to give you a heart of compassion for your neighbors; to see them through His eyes as weak and wounded, sick and sore loving them without fear or judgement. It doesn’t matter whether it’s Halloween or Thanksgiving or Easter. The Lord calls us to love our neighbors as ourselves and to meet them wherever they are—even if it is Halloween and we choose not to celebrate the holiday. Whether we agree with it or not, tonight is a good night to see what our hearts are really like. Our neighbors are acting out this parable for us. Instead of us walking past them on the road, the beat up and battered are knocking on our doors.
It is a beautiful day in the neighborhood! Maybe your open door and friendly conversation, filled with mercy and compassion, will provide the opportunity for a lasting friendship allowing God’s love and light to shine through you.