Who is My Neighbor?

An “Us vs. Them” mentality will never advance the Kingdom of God. If we want to reach people, we need to start viewing them as fellow image-bearers.

“…‘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.’”

Luke 10:27

One day, I was in a Christian business when I overheard a nearby conversation between two women who were shopping. They were standing near a basket of lapel pins shaped like baby feet. The pins represented the exact size and shape of a 10-week old baby’s feet inside the mother’s womb. Proceeds from these little pins benefited a local pregnancy center that assists families with unexpected and crisis pregnancies. The purpose of the fundraiser was to promote the value of human life.

Seeing the pins on display, for some reason, sparked one of the women to say to the other something along the lines of “The non-Americans in Congress are trying to say we shouldn’t have any babies right now.” She went on to sarcastically say “Oh yeah! Let’s just let the Muslims have all the babies instead so they can overthrow us!” These were just a couple of the highlights from her disgruntled murmurings.

These statements were incorrect on several levels but let’s dissect just a few:

For starters, there are no “non-Americans” in Congress. A Senator must be a United States citizen to even qualify for office. The requirements for the U.S. Senate can be found here.

The statement the woman was referring to was undoubtedly a quote by Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, or “AOC”, a U.S. Representative for New York’s 14th Congressional District. During a conversation about climate change and its effect on the earth she stated “There’s scientific consensus that the lives of children are going to be very difficult. And it does lead young people to have a legitimate question: Is it OK to still have children?” Her comment was in regards to how the health of our planet may effect our children, and all humans, in the years to come. It did not have anything to do with Islam, or any other religion for that matter, as far as I can tell.

From some very basic internet research, I have gathered that Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez was born in the Bronx to Catholic parents of Puerto Rican descent. Maybe the shopper assumed AOC was a Muslim by the tone of her skin? Or perhaps she had this Senator confused with another female Representative who is a Muslim, Ilhan Abdullahi Omar, who has also been often featured in the news? Either way, her statements were not only incorrect, but were also contrary to the Gospel message.

In reference to being outnumbered and overthrown, we are not in some sort of race or battle to see which major world religion can have the most offspring in order to outnumber one another. Where did this idea come from? And why would we think that just because two people had a baby, that the child would add another hash mark to the number of people practicing a certain religion?

I would agree that many children tend to participate in the religious activities of their parents…to a point. However, research shows that 18-25 year olds are becoming scarce in Christian churches. Just pay a visit to most American protestant churches and this fact will be more than obvious. Reasons for the shift, and attendance data, can be found here.

So, at least for Christianity, being born to Christian parents does not guarantee a person chooses to remain faithful into adulthood. Therefore, the argument that Christians should have more babies in order to produce more Christians just does not hold water. The Bible does not teach that your salvation has anything to do with the salvation of your parents, or anyone else for that matter. Salvation comes from Jesus Christ alone, not from your family lineage.

Muslims Are Not Our Enemy. Sin is.

The comments made by the woman shopping that day, and the thought process behind them, are ill-informed, potentially racist, and highly prejudice. I also find it ironic that a display of products that advocates for the value of human life sparked this conversation in the first place. Does a person of another nationality or religion have less value because it isn’t the same as yours? Did Jesus teach this? Of course not! Quite the opposite!

Muslims are not the enemies of God. Sin is the enemy of God. You have to recognize the difference. A human being practicing Islam is still a person made in the image of God, therefore deserving of forgiveness and redemption, just like any other human being on Earth. We cannot write people off because of their current lifestyle or their current sin. If anything, it should give us a further sense of urgency to show them the love and grace of the Savior we claim to serve.

An “Us vs. Them” mentality will never advance the Kingdom of God. If we want to reach people for Christ, we need to start viewing them as fellow image-bearers and understanding them, and their beliefs, on a personal level.

Radical political Islam poses numerous threats to both Christianity and the Western way of life. It is imperative that we do not take those dangers lightly. It is our responsibility as Christians to both understand, and stand against, beliefs that are contrary to the Bible and the Gospel of Jesus Christ. This does not mean we pick up our weapons to cut others down, but rather grasp firmly to Truth and gently instruct, in hopes that they will escape the captivity of sin (2 Timothy 2:24-26).

“Christians are called by God to conquer the world-not by the sword, not by subversion and subterfuge, but by spreading God’s message of grace and truth.”

-Michael Youssef in “The Third Jihad

The Compassionate Samaritan

The Bible is full of verses telling followers of God to accept and treat foreigners with respect, even in the Old Testament. For now, let’s just take a look at one instance in Luke 10:25-37.

Jesus is being tested by an expert in Jewish law. The man asks Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” (v29). As Jesus was known to do, He answered the man’s question by telling a parable. The story He tells is one you may be familiar with. It is a favorite among Sunday School leaders for teaching children to be kind to others. There is more to the lesson than just helping out someone in need, however. It goes much deeper than that.

A Sunday School activity my toddler brought home after learning about the Good Samaritan

The parable Jesus told is often referred to as “The Story of the Good Samaritan”. That title can be a little deceiving, though, if you are not familiar with ancient Jewish history. The Jewish people in that time would NOT have referred to any Samaritan as “good“! The Samaritan in this story was only called “good” because he helped someone in need, regardless of the possibility that they were of another nationality or class.

We do not know whether the injured man laying along the road between Jerusalem and Jericho was a Jew or a Gentile (non-Jew), but what we can be sure of is that the Jews and the Samaritans hated each other! Jews considered the Samaritans to be scum of the earth, the lowest of low, half-breeds. No one would have been surprised at all if the Samaritan had let the man lay there and suffer. In fact, they would have expected it. Even still, the Samaritan man goes to great lengths to help this person who could have very well been considered his earthly enemy. He does not appear to contemplate whether or not the man is a Jew or not. He helps the man without hesitation because it was the right thing to do.

The Samaritan’s compassion did not depend on the victim’s nationality. His kindness was not dependent on the man’s skin color. He did not wait to make sure their political views or religious beliefs lined up perfectly. Instead, he saw a man who was suffering and he attended to his needs, because all human life has value! When our compassion for others depends solely on the color of their skin or their religion, we leave fellow image-bearers to lay dying, physically and spiritually, in the streets of every town, city, and country in the world.

What About You?

  • What lengths have you gone to in order to help someone who is different from you?
  • Someone who has different political views than you?
  • Someone who is in a different pay grade as you?
  • And, yes, especially someone who practices a different religion than you?

“Jesus showed us that holiness is about how we treat others, especially those who are suffering and those who are different, those who may well be outsiders to your way of living, your way of voting, and, yes, even your way of believing.”

-Trent Sheppard in “Jesus Journey

Anyone can show love for someone they like, or someone who is like themselves (Luke 6:32-33). It takes a lot of heart, and sometimes a movement of the Holy Spirit, to show love to someone we disagree with. Jesus tells us to love our enemies (Luke 6:27-36), so what excuse do we have to do otherwise?

Go and Do Likewise

I think the expert in the law in Luke 10 was trying to find a loophole in the “love your neighbor as yourself” command in Leviticus 19:18 by implying that he was unsure who the scripture was referring to.

I am afraid Christians sometimes try to do the same thing. We hold hatred in our hearts for people who disagree with us because we are cowards. It is easier to scowl at foreigners than it is to embrace them. It is easier to ignore the poor than it is to feed them. It is easier to write off Muslims than it is to engage them in conversation.

“…there are certainly millions of moderate Muslims in the world… They are not our enemy. They are our mission field.”

-Michael Youssef in “The Third Jihad

The differences between Christians and Muslims are not excuses to avoid them. They are reasons to engage them. Ezekiel 3:18 makes it clear that it is our duty to reach Muslims, and all others, for Christ. Everyone deserves the opportunity to choose freely for themselves whether they want to accept the Truth of Jesus, but it is our responsibility to present the Gospel message to everyone, without bias.

Jesus made it clear that the lawyer in Luke 10 was to love everyone as himself, and if he would do that, then he would live (Luke 10:28).

Now, go and do likewise (Luke 10:37)!


*Additional Resources

Christians can, and should, stand firmly against the beliefs of other religions that deny the Truth laid out by God in the Bible. But in order to do that effectively, we must first understand what others believe and what the Bible teaches.

In order to be relevant and effective witnesses to those practicing Islam, Christians must be knowledgeable about the beliefs and views of Muslims.

  • Pastor and author, Dr. Michael Youssef speaks with firsthand authority about the goals and methods of today’s radical Islamists. Born in Egypt, and having also lived in Lebanon and Australia before moving to the United States, Dr. Youssef is uniquely positioned to reach Muslims for Christ. His ministry, Leading the Way, provides hope and resources for people all over the world who are seeking Christ, including countries ruled by political Islam. He is an expert on the Middle East and the unique struggles of Christianity in Islamic regions. He has authored several informative books on the topic of Islam’s effect on Western culture such as, “The Hidden Enemy” and The “Third Jihad“.
  • The Facts on Islam” is a handy guide by John Ankerberg, John Weldon, and Dillon Burroughs on the basics of Islam: History, facts, beliefs, etc.
  • Facing Islam Without Fear” by Patrick Nachtigall prepares Christians to engage Muslims free of stereotypes, but with a realistic view of how Christianity differs from Islam.

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