The 2018 annual meeting of North Carolina Baptists carries the theme, “Who is my neighbor?” The question is one of many in the scriptures that captivate my attention.
It was raised in the context of introducing the parable of the Good Samaritan in Luke 10.
An expert in the law initiated the discussion when he raised another question. His query appeared to be sincere, “What must I do to inherit eternal life?”
Jesus asked the man what he understood the scriptures taught on the subject.
The legal expert drew from an Old Testament text to answer Jesus. “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind and your neighbor as yourself.”
Then, a sense of defensiveness surfaced. Luke 10:29 reads, “But wanting to justify himself, he asked Jesus, ‘And who is my neighbor?’”
My mind travels back to the first book of the Bible where another important question emerged early in the history of man.
Genesis 4:8-9 records, “Now Cain talked with Abel his brother; and it came to pass, when they were in the field, that Cain rose up against Abel his brother and killed him. Then the Lord said to Cain, ‘Where is Abel your brother?’ He said, ‘I do not know. Am I my brother’s keeper?’”
Seriously? Cain’s lame question was riddled with guilt as he looked for a way to shift the blame! God not only nailed Cain, He found him guilty of murder and sentenced him with a grievous curse.
To summarize the scene, in the first family the first two brothers who lived on this earth had differences that led to the murder of one. The murderer lied to God when asked the location of his brother and followed with a question designed to excuse himself of any responsibility for his brother. “Am I my brother’s keeper?”
Did God answer Cain’s question? Actually, He did. The rest of the Bible meticulously provides the answer over and over.
Yes! We do have a responsibility to others. That thread is woven through the Bible’s main message of salvation through faith in Jesus. That leads us to consider another question in the New Testament.
When Jesus’ ministry placed Him in the region of Caesarea Philippi, He asked His disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” (Matthew 16:13). The conversation eventually led to Simon Peter’s accurate response, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.”
Not only did Peter get it right, Jesus pronounced a profound blessing on him.
These important questions and many others in scripture point to key elements of our theology.
We bear a responsibility for our brothers and our neighbors. We have a calling to introduce them to the One who is the Messiah, the Son of the living God. That calling cannot be delegated or ignored.
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