Summary: A sermon about crossing over to the other side.
“Who Is My Neighbor?”
It was an ordinary day of commuting for Cameron Roberts.
The 20 year-old law school student made his way down the steps into a New York Subway Station to wait for the train.
All of a sudden, something went horribly wrong in the young man’s brain, sending him into a violent seizure.
Roberts fell to the ground, got back up again, and started stumbling along the edge of the subway platform.
Moments later, he was in-between the tracks on the railway bed, just as the rumbling of an oncoming train started shaking the station.
Some of the people in the subway turned away with their eyes clenched shut against the horror of what was about to happen.
Other commuters stood frozen in a sense of utter helplessness.
Others were in such a hurry to get to where they needed to go, that they missed the moment altogether.
In mere seconds, a young man, with his entire life ahead of him, would meet an unthinkably violent end, and no one could stop it.
No one would stop it.
Except the one man who did.
A 50 year-old construction worker named Hector Calero did the unthinkable.
This middle aged undocumented worker from Mexico, who had very little in common with a white upper middle class law student, chose to do what no one else at that scene decided to do: he chose to cross over.
Calero ran across that subway platform, jumped down onto the tracks and covered the young man’s convulsing body with his own.
He held him against the ground while the subway train thundered over them.
Later, when he was interviewed about the incident, Calero said: “I don’t feel like I did something spectacular; I just saw someone who needed help.
I did what I felt was right.
We’re supposed to come to people’s rescue.”
There’s something about that story that’s both inspiring and convicting.
It’s kind of like there is a Law of Love—a Law of profound regard for others which, if we could all lived by it, would make this world a very different place than it is.
Don’t we all hunger for a better world?
Don’t we all yearn to know the part we can play in moving toward it?
In this sense, perhaps we’re all a little like the man who asked Jesus a question in our Gospel Lesson for today.
“Teacher,’ he asked, ‘what must I do to inherit eternal life?’”
Jesus replied, “What is written in the Law?
How do you read it?”
The man 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’, and ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’”
“You have answered correctly,’ Jesus replied.
‘Do this and you will live.’”
But then the man took it a bit further.
He asked, “And who is my neighbor?”
In other words, “We have so many enemies.
And there is so much hatred between different races, religions, political parties and so forth.
Is my neighbor just the person who lives next door, and whose kids play with my kids?
Or is my neighbor just someone who looks and thinks like me?
Does someone have to live in the same country as I do to be my neighbor?
Are there any limits on this loving your neighbor thing?”
I mean, I can relate to this guy.
How about you?
He wants to do the right thing, but he is part of this broken world.
He’s like one of those commuters standing on the subway platform.
He’s like me.
Perhaps he’s like you.
If someone came up to you and asked: “How would you like it if love were the motivating force in your life?”
Would you reply: “Sign me up!!!”
But, then, would a second impulse move within you, that asks: “But what would that really mean in practice?
What would it cost me?
Surely you’re not talking about jumping in front of a train for a stranger or something crazy like that!
There have to be some boundaries to what I would be required to do.
I mean, I like the Law of Love—just as long as it’s coupled with the Law of Limits.
So tell me: Who’s my neighbor?”
And so Jesus goes on to tell a story about a man on a journey who is mugged, beat up and left for dead on the side of a road.
And the first two people who happen along this poor guy are both of the same race and religion as the half dead dude in the ditch.
They are even religious people.
They’ve read the Law of love as it’s written on paper a hundred, maybe a thousand times.
They may even think they live by it.