Mark 12:28-34, Luke 10:25-37, Romans 13:8-10, Galatians 6:2
Growing up, nothing embodied the image of a neighbor for me quite like Wilson from the television show Home Improvement. He always had some wisdom for the show’s main characters, Tim and Jill, as they tried to navigate the multifaceted dynamics of their family.
Wilson always brought resolve to the tension of the episode’s dilemma, but there was something odd about him. He never showed his whole face. He spoke through a wooden fence in the backyard. As a viewer, you did not know a lot about Wilson’s story as a person except that he loved to enter into his neighbors’ issues by making himself available to talk. A good neighbor does this—he makes himself available to those around him.
In Luke 10, the parable of the Good Samaritan, Jesus shows us that He is the Good Neighbor who is always there, the One who takes responsibility for others. Jesus is the blueprint for how to be a good neighbor on this earth. But He did not do this from behind a fence; He came down to walk our path (Philippians 2:6-8). This is who our neighbor is—anyone in our path.
Jesus shows us that a good neighbor is compassionate even toward those His own culture often despises. Jesus hung out with “those people”—people of poor reputation. Do you? We will never do this unless we see ourselves as belonging to “those people.” Compassion for a person who is suffering injustice or disadvantage breaks the heart of a good neighbor and moves him to act on that neighbor’s behalf. Jesus did this all the time. Do we?
Unlike God, we all put up fences in an attempt to segment our responsibilities to love and care for others. Often we build walls around our hearts that prevent us from serving the broken, the victim, the offender, the poor, and the culturally unacceptable. The gospel calls for us to get rid of the fenced-off compounds we live in today, and engage one another in love.
Unlike Wilson, God is not a neighbor who is hidden. He looks upon us in all our failures, pain, and complicated circumstances, and He loves us as He finds us. He does not merely give us good advice from across a fence. No, God steps through the fence of eternity and shows us His face in Jesus, who speaks with the Spirit of wisdom, heralding the good news of the gospel.
Wilson may have been the famous unseen neighbor in Home Improvement, but Jesus is the visible neighbor who restores all creation. And He calls us to love in the same way. As in the parable of the Good Samaritan, loving like this will cost us resources, time, emotions, and comfort. But this is the way we were loved. Christ made us His neighbors and loved us as His own. May He teach us to imitate Him.
Written By Jevon Washington