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Who is our neighbour?

By Rev Andrew Gunton – Moderator

In many of Jesus’ stories, he uses excellent illustrations to point out who and how we are called to be God’s people.  

In the story of the Good Samaritan, Jesus is put on the spot by a lawyer who, after finding out what he must do to inherit eternal life, that is, to love God and love our neighbour. Asks, well, who is my neighbour?

Of course, in this story, Jesus goes to great lengths to point out that the Samaritan man is the very opposite of who they thought their neighbour might be. He is the outsider, the unclean. He is the one that they’d never associate with. And yet, he is the neighbour. The good neighbour is the one who reaches out to someone in need, who doesn’t just stand by hoping that someone else will offer help, but in fact comes to his aid by providing for him the things he requires to be fully healed, medicine for his wounds and a roof over his head while he recovers.

This man is the neighbour.

This leads us to the question in our current times Who is our neighbour?

It’s interesting in a world where we very much still operate in our own spheres, our own tribes if you like that, we are called to reach out to the person who is different to us. The person who is outside our sphere. As Jesus says elsewhere, it’s very easy to love those close to us, our family of friends, but how can we begin to love those people that we have no connection with? How is it that we should reach out to those people who are very much outside of those spheres we operate in?

When we think about our current tensions right across our world, it’s easy to think about that person in a remote country whose beliefs might be different from our own. People are in war-torn places on the other side of the world. Maybe we could give money to an appeal or raise our concerns with our own government.

These things are important, but what about those people closest to us? Maybe the neighbour is the young person who commits crimes in our local neighbourhoods. Maybe the neighbour is the person addicted to heroin. Maybe the neighbour is someone who seems to have very different values from you.

These are precisely the people that Jesus calls us to be the good neighbour to, to care for in love, to tend to their physical needs, to bind those things that harm them, and to bring them back to wholeness.

If we take this incredibly tough lesson from Jesus seriously, then we need to go beyond our comfortable group of companions and go out of our way to recognise our neighbour and to meet their needs, for Christ calls each of us to love our neighbour just as we love our God. 


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