rev._joaquin_willis_3.jpgWhich of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers? – Luke 10:36. On that dark and rainy night on Feb. 26, 2012, what do you think would have happened if George Zimmerman had asked Trayvon Martin, “Do you live in this neighborhood?”

Trayvon’s tragic death is the modern day “Parable of The Good Samaritan” gone wrong. It is the story of a boy out for a walk in his father’s neighborhood, who, instead of being welcomed, becomes the shooting victim of a suspicious neighborhood watchman simply because of his color, his clothes and the pace of his walk. If Mr. Zimmerman knew then what he knows now, would he have taken the time to ask Trayvon if he was his neighbor?

A young lawyer (a scribe) asked Jesus a question of conscience like this, in Luke 10:25. Much like the Zimmerman trial, the question was a test and it was about an issue we should all be concerned about: “What must we do to inherit eternal life?” The lawyer’s intentions, perhaps like Mr. Zimmerman’s, were bad in that he wanted to test Jesus, not to be taught by Him.

In return, Jesus asked, “What is written in the law?” and “How do you read it?”  The scribe quotes Deuteronomy 6:5, “Love God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength, with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.” Christ
responded, “You have answered correctly. Do this and you will live.”

Based on this, Mr. Zimmerman, along with a lot of others, needs to have a talk with God. The scribe also knew what Christ would ask him next: “Have you done what the law says?” So, before Christ could ask, the scribe raises another question, “And who is my neighbor?”

Often, many of us ask good questions to justify ourselves, rather than to learn the painful truth. The point is that it is not enough to talk about God or “the inheritance of eternal life” or even ask questions. We must do what it takes to “inherit eternal life” and that is to be a good neighbor.

The Bible must be our oracle, our touchstone, our rule and our guidebook. If there is any light in us, the Bible will make that light shine brighter and make it shine through to our neighbors, as the light has done by shining through the loving parents of Trayvon Martin.

Christ illustrates the point by telling “The parable of the Good Samaritan,” teaching us what it means to love our neighbor as ourselves. We are to wish our neighbors well, and pray no harm comes to them. We are to do all the good we can and hurt none. We are to make it a rule to do to others what we want them to do to us. In both the scribe’s answer and Christ’s confirmation, the key to this is love.

Our love towards God must be sincere, hearty and fervent. It must be a love stronger than death, an intelligent love that fills our entire being, a love that is so deep in our souls it causes us to serve God with all that is within us.

Loving nothing more than God and our love for Him must be second to nothing. Then we can love our neighbor as ourselves, as we ought to do. It also then becomes easier to love God better than ourselves.

In the parable, the victim was slighted by his own kind of people, ones who should have been his friend. A priest, a Levite, both men of public character and standing, walked by and didn’t help. The man was dying and they were willing to let him die. But someone of a different background, a Samaritan (a colored man), actually stopped and helped.

Though justice, to many of us, seems denied, God has used Trayvon’s death to bring about a lot of good. The tragic nature of his death has given his life significant meaning in this world.

We all need to be careful of our response to the outcome of the trial. If we speak of it carelessly, it is like speaking about “inheriting eternal life,” as the scribe did. And, in so doing, we risk taking the Lord’s name in vain, regardless of, we must remember, “Vengeance is mine says the Lord.”

*The Rev. Dr. R. Joaquin Willis is pastor of the Church of the Open Door UCC in Miami’s Liberty City community. He may be reached at 305-759-0373 or