One of the Bible’s most resounding commandments is “do not stand idly by while your neighbor bleeds.” I’ve been thinking a lot about this verse lately.
I’ve thought about it in the context of gun violence. But it’s also challenged me on a deeper level. Does anyone care about the bloodshed happening in Syria?
While admitting lack of knowledge of the variables of foreign policy, I was saddened that President Obama did not mention it in his otherwise moving inaugural address.
Who will speak up for the tens of thousands of students and families slaughtered by one dictator? Are they our neighbors? And if so, can we continue to stand idly by?
Some might say that they are not our neighbors. They live in a different part of the world, with different rules and cultures. We only create more problems when we get involved in other people’s affairs.
The Last Best Hope of Man
I respect that point of view. Yet, we can still speak out. American influence does not rest solely in tanks and dollars. It derives from our moral stature, our history as what Abraham Lincoln called the “last best hope of man on earth.”
I write not as a diplomat, soldier or politician. Their points of view must shape our thinking.
Yet, I speak as someone who knows that so many failed to speak out when millions were slaughtered in Nazi Germany, in Armenia, in Rwanda. How can we stand idly by while our neighbor bleeds?
Love Your Neighbor
How do we know the Syrians are our neighbors? The answer can be found in a famous debate in the Talmud, the book of Jewish law, written 1500 years ago.
Quoting the biblical verse, “love thy neighbor as thyself,” the talmudic sages asked the question, “Who is our neighbor? Is it just someone who lives in the same community? Is it someone of our religion or ethnicity?”
Their answer: Your neighbor is your fellow human being, created in the image of God.
God Is Bigger Than Any One Religion
In other words, God is bigger than any one religion. God is larger than any one group. Each person created in the image of God is our neighbor.
We have responsibilities to our neighbors. When we feel their pain, we begin to open our hearts. It’s time to open our hearts to Syria. It’s time to speak out.
By Evan Moffic