Who is my Neighbor?
Sunday, July 10, 2016, Reflection on Luke 10:25-37
by Elizabeth Dede
We’ve all heard stories of how Koinonia was a Good Samaritan to its neighbors who were outside the standards of acceptability. And this brought on the days of the violence and boycott.
But there were also people who were neighbors and Good Samaritans to Koinonia, and their stories are not to be forgotten.
There’s Maize and Caranza Morgan who were loving and caring neighbors. Caranza was an African American farmer who smuggled in supplies to Koinonia during the night. If he had been caught by some of the good white folk of Sumter County, he probably would have paid for it with his life.
There is also a remarkable story involving Con Browne. Con and his family were members of Koinonia during the height of the boycott. One day Con went into town to deliver packages to the post office. He was grabbed from the car and beaten by a man who wore brass knuckles. After the beating, Con was taken to a clinic where he was treated and released with the direction that he go home and rest.
When Con and the others got home, the Sheriff of Sumter County, whom Martin Luther King, Jr. called the meanest man in the world, greeted. Now, you would expect that the Sheriff came to Koinonia to take a statement from Con. Instead, he arrested Con and charged him with disturbing the peace and reported that Con had beaten himself up to get attention.
Rather than resting in bed, Con was taken to jail. The Sheriff put him in a cell with a convicted murderer, thinking, no doubt, that this man would finish the job that the assailant in town had begun. What happened was astounding. This convicted murderer, whom the Sheriff wrote off as a violent man who could only do violence, stayed up through the night, caring for Con.
So who was the neighbor?
Neighbors come to us in unlikely ways. And as Jesus teaches, it is often the person who is least likely to be our neighbor. Who would have thought that the Samaritan in the story, an outsider who was despised, would turn out to be the truly loving and caring person?
Who would have thought that man of violence would stay up through the night caring for someone who was utterly defenseless?
Once again it is the stranger, the outsider, who is the angel. Or one who lives across the way who is of another race or another religion. Who is my neighbor? I would suggest that it is precisely the person whom our society labels as “not one of us” or one who is undeserving, just like the Samaritan was the one labeled in Jesus’ time as undeserving. We should look for our neighbor in the one in prison, in the undocumented laborer, in the drug addict, in the person on welfare, in the homeless alcoholic, in all of the people who are outsiders in our time. It is here, Jesus suggests, that we will find the true neighbor.