25 On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?”
26 “What is written in the Law?” he replied. “How do you read it?”
27 He answered, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’[a]; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’[b]”
28 “You have answered correctly,” Jesus replied. “Do this and you will live.”
29 But he wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”
30 In reply Jesus said: “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he was attacked by robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead.31 A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side.32 So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side.33 But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him.34 He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, brought him to an inn and took care of him.35 The next day he took out two denarii[c] and gave them to the innkeeper. ‘Look after him,’ he said, ‘and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.’
36 “Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?”
37 The expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him.”
Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.”
On the last episode of the year, co-host Tom Coale of the Elevate Maryland podcast engaged in some thoughtful introspection on the redistricting experience in Howard County: how it affected the community, and how he himself had responded. It was not an opportunity to rehash old battles or an attempt at self-justification. I found it to be a valuable moment of self examination that we might all benefit from.
The turning of the year brought news that the Howard County Redistricting Opposition Facebook Group has rebranded itself as Howard County Neighbors United. This particular change of name put me in mind of the aforementioned parable. When we say the word neighbor, what do we mean? Is it a feeling? An action? A physical location? A specific pre-established relationship?
Those are questions I will be carrying with me as I examine community issues this year. My use of a New Testament story is not meant to ask others to see things through a Christian lens. Instead, I’m asking my readers to think what that word, “neighbor” means to them. I freely admit that my interpretation involves showing mercy, not simply to the folks next door, but to anyone ”on the road to Jerusalem from Jericho.”