Who Is my Neighbor?
This week 3 Muslim students at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill were shot dead outside of their apartment by their neighbor. Reports are conflicted about whether they were killed because of their ethnicity, religious observances, or parking practices. But for me, none of this matters.
What matters to me is that 3 young adults lost their lives in an act of senseless rage; that there are parents who must grieve the loss of their children.
What matters is that we live in time and place where either a parking spot dispute or a difference of religious opinion is reason enough to shoot your neighbor.
In my life, I have been blessed to have good neighbors -- people who didn't mind when their property became part of the playscape, people who watched over me, and people who now watch over my children. Consequently, I have a hard time understanding the stories I've heard of neighbor fights and escalating animosity over noise or property boundaries.
But who is my neighbor, really? It is easy to keep moving to "better" neighborhoods in the hope of finding "better neighbors." We are all tempted to live among people "like us" to better our odds of having neighbors we like.
Yet when I consider the Gospel on this point, I understand in Jesus' teaching a request to expand our notion of "neighbor." We are called to stretch our boundaries of who counts as our neighbor. We are to increase our scope until we find that "neighbor" that makes us uncomfortable or gets on our nerves: the neighbor that we would rather not deal with. And how we treat that person, reflects our faith and walk with Christ. That is the neighbor we must love as we love ourselves.
I pray for the repose of the souls of Yusor Mohammad Abu-Salha, Razan Mohammad Abu-Salha, and Deah Shaddy Barakat, and for their families. I pray we all may find the courage to be the neighbors that Jesus calls us to be.