Love Thy Neighbor: ‘Who is my neighbor?’

July 5, 2017

Editor’s note: As our country endures a time of great divisiveness, Bread Blog begins a series today that reminds us of God’s commandment to “love your neighbor as yourself.” Blog posts will be written by members of the church relations department at Bread for the World.

By Bishop José García

Like the interpreter of the law described in the Gospel of Luke, today many ask, “Who is my neighbor?” when facing decisions about charity and advocacy. Some say that their neighbors are those who live near them; others argue that our neighbors are those who share a common culture, ethnicity, socioeconomic standing, national identity, or religious persuasion. Any these definitions can be employed to justify lack of action or disregard to the pain, suffering, and oppression of others.

Such an attitude is no different than Cain’s when God asked him to account for his brother (Genesis 4:19). Cain’s sarcastic reply demonstrates an indifference similar to those of us who fail to bear responsibility for the welfare of our fellow children of God. This is in sharp contrast with Jesus commandment to “Love your neighbor as yourself” (Matthew 22:39).

Jesus commandment is counter-cultural. It goes against the message that is most loudly promoted in our world. We are constantly bombarded with the notion that fulfillment is gained through material comfort; that the purpose of life is to enjoy the ride; that my focus should be upon myself—first and foremost. However, God’s love, grace, and mercy, as presented through the Holy Scriptures, clearly contradicts this perspective. God’s vision of our neighbor encompasses not only those near us, but every individual in the global community. Loving our neighbor as ourselves means that we will endeavor to seek their wellbeing when it comes to the opportunities and privileges of education, jobs, housing, health, nutrition, and justice.

Who is my neighbor?  My neighbor is every one of the 46 million individuals who struggles with hunger and poverty in our nation—and the more that 700 million worldwide. My neighbor faces famine in South Sudan, Nigeria, Yemen, and Somalia. My neighbor is comprised of the more than 20 million refugees escaping war and the immigrants escaping oppression, gang violence, corrupt governments, and economic despair. My neighbors are the more 700,000 dreamers whose parents brought them to this country in pursuit of better opportunities. They are formerly incarcerated men and women who are denied programs and services that can lift them out of hunger and poverty—and can prevent them from falling into recidivism after released.

The president’s proposed fiscal year 2018 budget would make serious and damaging cuts to programs that are critical for people struggling with hunger and poverty in the United States and globally. On May 21, thousands of faith leaders began fasting and praying. They asked God for help in their advocacy efforts for our neighbors who are struggling with hunger and poverty.  I encourage you to join in this fast and prayer campaign, called For Such a Time as This: A Call to Prayer, Fasting, and Advocacy. We are praying for Congress to reject budget cuts to anti-hunger programs that have lifted millions of children, women, men, and families from hunger and poverty in our nation and around the world.

Bishop José García is an ordained bishop with the Church of God of Prophecy and a senior advisor for prayer and strategic initiatives at Bread for the World.

Jesus commandment is counter-cultural. It goes against the message that is most loudly promoted in our world.

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