Of course, simple doesn't mean easy. Why? Because we are humans who have been slow to learn this thing call loving your neighbor as yourself. Or, at least when it comes to defining who my neighbor is. But maybe we can get better at it. What I think will be more likely to enhance our ability to do so is to understand that in a world like ours, EVERYONE is our neighbor- and we each are everyone else's neighbor. The world-wide recession in the past six years shows that. The price of oil and its effect on gas prices AND food prices shows that. Even the world-wide terror alerts and the Ebola reactions show that.
Yet, Jesus was speaking something far more profound than we are willing to admit. We humans are community-based creatures. We need other humans to support us, protect us, raise our children. The simple fact of the long period of growth of human children and their powerlessness and helplessness is an indicator of that. When our primitive human ancestors started to form small bands or tribes, the movement toward community was begun.
But it was also the beginning of competition between tribes which only morphed (dare I say metastasized?) into states, nation-states and then mega-states. Suddenly the definitions of neighbor needed to be expanded- or identified differently. The result was the expansion of tribal conflict into war, into global war. As I mentioned in one of my posts on the 10th Armored Division in World War II the number of people involved in that conflict was staggering. There were 1.9 billion people impacted by the war. That is an amazing 90% of the world population in 1941!
Who says we are not all neighbors?
Certainly not Jesus. He broke all those neighbor taboos from women to Samaritans to children to lepers to those possessed to Romans to tax collectors to the poor to orphans to those in prison to those caught in adultery. In short, he broke the taboos by making all of the known enemies of the day his neighbors. What is kind of scary to me is that the only group he was less-friendly with - the religious and political leaders. (That I will just let sit there. Make your own determinations of that one. At least for today.)
The challenge I hear from Jesus in this hate-filled world in this time of fear and finger-pointing is to take a different look at the enemies we put on our hate list. Until we can treat them with love, we are not living up to our name as Christians. I hear Jesus telling me to pray for them- and to pray that we ourselves may be blessed by them. It is a two-way street.