Recently, I read a story of friendship between a Christian and a Muslim that began at a bus stop. A few years after they’d met and their friendship had deepened, the Muslim man told his Christian friend that while he was on that bus ride, he had prayed, “God, help me to find a friendly American today.” He added, “God answered that prayer when I met you.” His Christian friend had tears in his eyes upon hearing that intimate detail.
When I hear this story, I think of the second greatest commandment: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Jesus used the story of the Good Samaritan to illustrate exactly who that “neighbor” could be. As you probably know, there was no love between the Jews and Samaritans, so the story probably held some shock value to its hearers.
I don’t know about you, but my literal neighbors look and act a lot like me. Yet that’s changing. As people move throughout the world, my neighbors will continue to look increasingly diverse, in race, religion, or both.
And so are we ready to become a person’s answer to prayer, like the Christian who met the Muslim man at the bus stop? Because of Christ’s love for us while we were yet sinners, we owe a debt of love to those who are different from us.
Why is having the attitude of Christ so difficult for us these days? Perhaps the pandemic has made us a bit testier than we’ve ever been, and the differences of others grate on us. Maybe we feel like our points of view and ways of life are being disregarded by newcomers to our neighborhoods. Whatever the reason, if we want to have the attitude of Christ toward our neighbors, we will demonstrate that God’s character is one of love and wholehearted giving to all created in his image.
Thinking back to the Muslim man at the bus stop who prayed to meet a friendly American, I wonder who might be praying that prayer today? Might that friendly person be you or me?