‘Love your neighbour’ ranks as some of Jesus’ most famous and challenging words and which, in the aftermath of the EU referendum, seem particularly pertinent.
If my Facebook page was anything to go by, the debate and its subsequent fallout revealed much division between people. Sadly, opposing views were expressed not always with love and and respect but with animosity towards those who think differently. Indeed, I’m sure that whichever side of the debate we fell, we are equally troubled to hear of the rise in crimes against many EU nationals. In this divisive climate I wonder if it might cause us to ask the same question as it did when Jesus first uttered these words two millennia ago: ‘but who is my neighbour’?
It was in response to this question that Jesus told the parable of the Good Samaritan, a tale in which the most unlikely of people goes out of their way to help another. The story narrates a chance encounter between two men whose relationship should have been characterised by hatred and hostility but who are brought together through an act of love both given and received.
Whilst Samaritans in our day evoke images of dedicated people waiting at the end of phone lines to help those in dire need, to Jesus’ hearers it would have been very different. Samaritans were people to be greeted with fear and suspicion and even hatred. Yet in Jesus’ story it was the Samaritan who turned out to be the good neighbour, it was the Samaritan who reached out in love.
What I love most about Jesus’ parables is that they don’t tell us how to think or to act as much as they paint a picture of a different world to capture our imagination; they allow us to see our world through God’s eyes in which fear can be replaced by love, despair by hope and darkness by light.
The EU debates and referendum have shone a light on the deep divisions in our country and there are clearly many wounds to be healed and many relationships to be reconciled. At a time which has been characterised by such division the parable of the Good Samaritan may be a timely reminder for us to consider the question, ‘who is my neighbour?’ and how can we reach out to them not in hostility but with hospitality and with love.
With my prayers.
Read this article in the Yaxley Gazette.