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Neighbor! The one label that truly matters


As an individual we carry many labels; I have been identified as a Jamaican born, black, naturalized US citizen, veteran, wife, and mother of three, moderately conservative, self employed, Christian. As I reflect on these labels that have been placed on me by myself and others, I am sympathetic to the many issues many face around the world that fall under a label that carries a stigma, that causes them to feel the sting of hatred and disdain. Whether it is by skin color, location, ethnic background, economic, physical, emotional or psychological status; many have suffered as a result of these labels that we so quickly embrace.

Despite being sympathetic to the causes of so many to include myself, I have acknowledge that as human beings we are so corrupted in our thinking, that it takes “divine intervention” to fix the disease that have so easily divided us; a perpetual problem that will hopefully and eventually be eradicated with time. As I highlighted some of my many labels, I have found that in each of them I have opened up myself to be judged and scrutinized and left at the mercy of others opinion. Every label carries a stigma that cannot be so easily dismissed and proves in itself to be a barrier that must be overcome. Until we learn to accept people as they are, and love them where they are, we will never be able to say I have love for my fellow man.

As a Christian, one of the main tenets and namely the second greatest commandment of our faith is found in

Matthew 22:39

– love thy neighbor as thyself;

Despite Christ reiterating its importance, saints and sinners alike have found it difficult to maintain this very tenet. Why do we so easily stumble to meet this very simple command? We have labeled ourselves everything else but what is in a neighbor?

Neighbor is defined as any person in need of one’s help or kindness.

As we focus on the key word ANY, we must then ask our self who is my neighbor?

According to Luke 10:25-37, (paraphrasing) Christ told the parable of the Good Samaritan, the story highlights a injured traveler needing assistance after being assaulted and left for dead, there were three travelers, two of whom ignored the traveler and the last being someone who was labeled and stigmatized by society as someone of low regard, this person had compassion, showed mercy and kindness towards the injured stranger and tended to his needs; at the end of the story Christ asked who was the neighbor. The person that posed the initial question then answered:

37 And he said, He that shewed mercy on him. Then said Jesus unto him, Go, and do thou likewise. (Luke 10:37)

As we look at this story we see that Christ associated a neighbor to be any person in need of one’s help, or kindness, or mercy. When we look at this definition we see that any person can fall into this category no matter what label they are associated with. The one label that truly matter, is that of a neighbor. He commands us to do the same.

As we look at the state of our nation and the world, it would seem we are lacking in the area of being neighborly. As a result, we have perpetuated the discrimination of many individual's choice to be identified as a label outside of a neighbor. Is this right? Despite our differences can we be neighborly? No matter what labels we fall under, whether it is self appointed or not, we are commanded to treat each other as neighbors with the same love and mercy we would treat ourselves. (Matthew 9:9-12)

9 And as Jesus passed forth from thence, he saw a man, named Matthew, sitting at the receipt of custom: and he saith unto him, Follow me. And he arose, and followed him.

10 And it came to pass, as Jesus sat at meat in the house, behold, many publicans and sinners came and sat down with him and his disciples.

11 And when the Pharisees saw it, they said unto his disciples, Why eateth your Master with publicans and sinners?

12 But when Jesus heard that, he said unto them, They that be whole need not a physician, but they that are sick.

What can we take away from Christ’s example? Despite being God incarnate, the Messiah, a Jew, a carpenter and a revolutionist, Christ did not allow the labels that were associated with Him to prevent Him from being neighborly? He supped with any who would come and healed those who were sick and in need of mercy.

The hypocrisies in the labels we carry.

No matter what label you carry, black, white, Muslim, Christian, gay, straight and in between, I have learned this truth in Christ, that the problem is not the labels but that we allow ourselves to be separated by the sin that is in us; that of self righteousness and pride, in that by these labels we allow ourselves to justify treating people that are different in a way that is not loving and kind (not being neighborly). The problem is sin, the sin of being so self involved that we fail to love people where they are, no matter the labels they carry.

If we follow the example of Christ, let us walk in love, extending, mercy and kindness to any who come in your path.

As Christians we must ask ourselves, are we neighborly? Do we truly love our neighbor as ourselves?

How do we operate as a society without labels when we so quickly identify ourselves with labels that separate us? Why do we make these labels relevant when all it does is separate us and causes us to alienate each other from loving and respecting each other as a fellow human being? I do believe that willingly accepting these labels has given it the power of a double edged sword. I personally would rather people in society treat me with the same love and respect they desire without the label. How do you believe we can get past this without losing who we deem ourselves to be as individuals?

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