‘Who is my neighbor?’

This past weekend many churchgoers in Marshalltown heard pastoral reflections (sermons, if you will) based on Jesus’ parable of the good Samaritan. Jesus told the parable in response to the question “Who is my neighbor?” (If you aren’t familiar with the story, find a Bible turn to the Gospel of Luke, and read chapter 10, verses 25-37.) The parable ends with the questioner answering his own question, deciding that a neighbor is one who shows mercy to a stranger in need.

I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about that “Who is my neighbor?” question lately, so this topic was very timely and thought-provoking for me. The question that keeps surfacing in my mind is: How would our community react if for just one week every person who heard that parable this weekend actually performed just one act of kindness/generosity (mercy) for a total stranger in need?

I am very aware that Marshalltown has an extraordinary number of philanthropic citizens and institutions; it is a very special place, and I feel extremely privileged to have spent the bulk of my life here, to have raised my children here. However, institutional generosity is not what Jesus was talking about. He was talking about one person showing mercy directly to another human in need – saying “Take my hand; allow me to help you.” Jesus said, “Go, and do likewise.” Can we? Will we?