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Signposts: Daily Devotions

Written by Susan Hanson

Sunday, November 22

Just then a lawyer stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he said, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?” He said to him, “What is written in the law? What do you read there?” He answered, “You shall 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 your neighbor as yourself.” And he said to him, “You have given the right answer; do this, and you will live.” But wanting to justify himself, he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”
—Luke 10:25-29

Growing up, I collected all kinds of things—some pretty common, such as stamps and coins, and some a little less so, at least for a girl—things like marbles and model cars that I assembled and painted myself. I also enjoyed getting sweatshirts, most of which bore the name of some university’s football team.

My favorite, though, featured a line from Peanuts character Linus van Pelt: “I love mankind. It’s people I can’t stand.” For a time when I was younger, I considered using that as my personal motto because, at least to a degree, it was true. I liked people just fine in the abstract, philosophical sense, but put me in a room with someone I had to talk to, and the situation changed. I’d rather be left alone.

Despite his use of parables and his sometimesambiguous sayings, Jesus never really talked in abstract terms. For him, spirituality was all about the way people lived their lives, not how frequently they fasted or how well they said their prayers. The more fully they participated in the life of God, he believed, the more accurately God’s love would be reflected in everything they did.

So who is my neighbor?the lawyer wanted to know when he came to see Jesus. Where can I draw the line?Jesus’ answer, embedded in his story about the Good Samaritan, was simple: You can’t. Let’s not nitpick, Jesus might say today. Your neighbor is anyone who shows up in your life.

We may say we love mankind, but it’s a love we can show just one person at a time.

O God, open my eyes to see the needs of my neighbors, the ones I know and the ones who move quickly in and out of my life. 

These Signposts were originally published on in 2005.