22nd June 2008
Our third value we are looking at in this series is love for our neighbour. Jesus said that the command to love your neighbour as yourself was the second most important of all, one of the two foundations of all God’s laws. The command first appears in Leviticus in the Old Testament, alongside several laws regulating life in the community.
When Jesus was asked to define neighbour, he included anyone we come into contact with, even those who would naturally be thought of as enemies. Samaritans and Jews hated each other, and when Jesus painted the Samaritan as a good neighbour his listeners would have been shocked to the core.
All Christians are ‘Samaritans’ in a sense. According to Jesus, we do not belong to this world but to the kingdom of God, and we must not be surprised when the world hates us. Nevertheless, we live in this world, and we are to be fully engaged with this world, doing good even to those who have no desire to be friends. It is tempting to avoid discomfort by merging in with those around us, minimising our differences and keeping ourselves to ourselves. Once we actively try to improve things, we may find ourselves under attack in various ways: those who are ‘lights of the world’ are often targets for metaphorical stone throwing! It is so much more comfortable not to get involved. But love is not about making ourselves comfortable.
Nowadays each of us lives in several communities – our family, our neighbourhood, our work community, our leisure circles – and our neighbours are the people with whom we come into contact in each of these communities. If we love our neighbour we want the best for them, and that includes wanting them to enjoy living in these communities. Naturally, we will want to help make our communities better. Political, social and environmental action may be necessary, and if it is, we will do it for love’s sake – whatever non-Christian politicians or journalists may say!
We know that there is a perfect world to come, and we can imagine what perfect communities will look like when all is as our loving God wants it. Even though our communities will never be perfect in this world, we can play our part to improve them. The Holy Spirit within us is a Creator Spirit, who is always at work in this world; we can look to him to inspire us and to work through us for the benefit of the communities we belong to.
1) Who are our neighbours? Would Jesus include those who enter our homes via TV and computers?
2) What actions would a modern day good Samaritan be doing? How well do you fit that description?