Our Founder: Who Is My Neighbor?

By Doug Bell
Trinity Center Founding Father

There is a crisis at the Mexican border. Immigrants are flowing in by the thousands. Who will care for them? Are they our neighbors? On one occasion Jesus told a scribe and others at the temple that the second greatest commandment is this, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”

So, are we responsible for helping wanderers that we encounter along the road of life? I think the answer is yes, that is what Jesus told us.

Remember the person who was helped by the Good Samaritan was a Jew, and the Jews only considered other Jews to be their neighbors. However, two prominent Jews, a Priest and a Levite, did not stop to help. They just walked on by and let the man suffer on the ground.

Then the good Samaritan came along and saw that the man needed help. Even though he was not considered a neighbor by the Jews, he stopped to help. He showed compassion for the injured Jew. He decided any person in need was his neighbor. So, he felt he needed to tend to the man’s injuries and take him to town to a safe hotel.

A lot of Christians say that God wants us to welcome visitors and love our neighbors as ourselves.

Mark 12: 28-31, and hear what Jesus told a crowd in the temple.

“One of the scribes came near and heard them disputing with one another, and seeing that he answered them well, he asked, “Which commandment is the first of all?” Jesus answered, “The first is, ‘Hear O Israel: the Lord our God, the Lord is one. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength. The second is this, ‘ You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.”

  • So, who are our neighbors?
  • All of you are my neighbors. We see each other often here at Trinity Center, and we call each other neighbors.
  • What about people in Dallas or Houston? Are they our neighbors?
  • What about people in New York or California? Are they our neighbors?
  • What about people in Mexico or South America? Are they our neighbors?
  • What about refugees and immigrants from foreign lands like Guatemala, Nicaragua, or even Syria? Are they our neighbors?

Matthew 25:36-40, hear what Jesus said.

“Then the King will say to those at his right hand, ‘Come you that are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry, and you gave me food. I was thirsty, and you gave me something to drink. I was a stranger, and you welcomed me. I was naked, and you gave me clothing. I was sick, and you took care of me. I was in prison, and you visited me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry and gave you food, or thirsty and gave you something to drink? And when was it that we saw you a stranger and welcomed you, or naked and gave you clothing? And when was it that we saw you sick or in prison and visited you? And the King will answer them, ‘Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.’ “

There is risk in loving our neighbors. It’s a risk that Trinity Center decided to take 20 years ago when we decided to open our arms and our building to our neighbors. The reward for taking this risk is Love. It is a risk that much of the religious communities in America are willing to take.

Last week all the Episcopal Bishops in Texas issued a joint letter asking our politicians to follow the Gospel when setting policies for immigration.

From the Bishops’ letter.

“And yet, as Christians, we are all commanded by our Lord to love one another as he loves us, and to love our neighbor as we love ourselves—whether that neighbor is a church member whose politics you can’t stand, or a politician you distrust, or a poor woman and her child from a distant land. Jesus says they are all our neighbors.”

How about you? Do you love your neighbor as yourself? AMEN.

[EDITOR’S NOTE: Doug Bell delivered this timely homily at Trinity Streets’ Eucharistic service on Sunday, July 14.]