Who Is My Neighbor?
There is little doubt in my mind that the parable of the Good Samaritan, which Jesus gives in Luke 10:25-37 as an answer to the above question, applies very much to border communities, especially those along the U.S./Mexico border. And it also seems self-evident that in order to love one’s neighbor, one must actually get to know one’s neighbor.
This is perhaps not too difficult for many of the Mexican-American individuals who live in border communities, who are often only a few generations removed from their immigrant forbears, or from family still across the border in Mexico (although according to Oscar Martinez, this demographic has its own challenges in forging and retaining a cultural identity that does not veer into one extreme or another).
However, for the majority of Anglo-Americans living in border communities, my experience growing up in El Paso is still typical: Interaction with our neighbors in Mexico is limited to superficial relationships (often of the consumer-to-servant variety) or short jaunts across the border to take advantage of cheap goods and services.
In the past few years, even this latter connection has been largely abandoned due to the increased violence of Mexican drug cartels. In other worrds, like the religious men in Jesus’ parable, we are still walking quickly by while our neighbor gets beaten up by robbers, fearful for our own skin. After all, it’s “their” problem, isn’t it? We’ll be good Samaritans as soon as it’s safe. Or worse, we build a fence to keep the robbers AND their victims locked together, both safely away from us.
The good Samaritan crosses the street to rescue a foreigner, then takes him into his home, gives him medical care, and then gives him money to get back on his feet. Too often, we do the exact opposite: We refuse to cross the border to help, we barricade the entrance to our homeland, and are resentful when foreigners try to obtain care in our hospitals or financial assistance from our social services.
Pastoral ministry in a border community requires us to take seriously the charge of Jesus to be good neighbors, even especially when there is risk involved. We can start by crossing the street. Or in this case, the Rio Grande.
Next – Part II: The Law and the Lions’ Den (Daniel 3 & 6).