According to the Bible, I should love my neighbor, but who is my neighbor?

Jesus illustrates that one's neighbor encompasses not only those who are similar or proximate but also those who are different, marginalized, or even considered adversaries.

The biblical command to "love your neighbor as yourself" is a fundamental precept that has been central to Judeo-Christian ethical and moral teachings for millennia. However, the question of who exactly qualifies as one's "neighbor" has been a topic of contemplation, debate, and interpretation within religious and scholarly circles. The concept of neighborly love is notably emphasized in the New Testament, particularly in the teachings of Jesus Christ, and it encompasses a comprehensive and inclusive understanding of humanity and compassion.

The question "who is my neighbor" comes from an exchange between Jesus and a lawyer recounted in the Gospel of Luke. In the parable of the Good Samaritan, Jesus responds to the lawyer's inquiry about the greatest commandment and the requirement to love one's neighbor. In response, Jesus tells the parable of a man who is robbed, beaten, and left for dead on the side of the road. Both a priest and a Levite pass by the injured man without offering assistance, but a Samaritan, a member of a group despised by the Jews, stops to help the wounded man, demonstrating compassion and care.

Through this parable, Jesus expands the definition of "neighbor" beyond the immediate connotations of familial, social, or tribal relationships. Jesus illustrates that one's neighbor encompasses not only those who are similar or proximate but also those who are different, marginalized, or even considered adversaries. The parable conveys the message that neighborly love transcends ethnic, religious, and cultural boundaries and requires compassion and empathy toward all members of the human family.

The inclusive understanding of "neighbor" articulated in this parable aligns with the broader biblical teachings on love, justice, and care for others. The concept of neighborly love is rooted in the fundamental belief in the inherent dignity and worth of every human being, regardless of their background, identity, or circumstances. In the New Testament, the call to love one's neighbor reflects the overarching message of compassion, mercy, and solidarity with all people, grounded in the divine commandment to love God and love others.

Furthermore, the question of "who is my neighbor" is addressed in the context of Jesus' teachings on moral responsibility and the Kingdom of God. The inclusive and expansive definition of neighborly love challenges individuals to consider the needs, suffering, and well-being of others as their own, fostering a sense of interconnectedness and communal responsibility. This radical call to love one's neighbor reflects the transformative and universal nature of Christian ethics and demands a selfless, sacrificial, and all-encompassing love that transcends self-interest and prejudice.

In contemporary interpretations, the question of "who is my neighbor" continues to resonate as a call to extend compassion and justice to all members of society, particularly those who are vulnerable, marginalized, or in need. The biblical concept of neighborly love transcends geographical, cultural, and ideological boundaries, inviting individuals to cultivate a spirit of empathy, solidarity, and advocacy for the welfare of others, regardless of their differences.