Who is my neighbour?
During the month of December, my family and I went through the book of Luke as part of our advent, 24 chapters for 24 days leading up to Christmas. As a family, myself, my wife and two daughters each took turns to share a chapter and as a father and husband, I was really proud of how my family delivered each chapter. On day 10 we were sharing on the good Samaritan and this really challenged me to assess what we as a family offer to the Kingdom and to what extent are we willing to go.
Called to a life of interruption and inconvenience
In conversation with my beautiful wife a few days ago, we looked at our circle of friends, the roles we play in their lives and they in turn in our lives. One of our English friends, may just be the most practical examples of the parable of the Good Samaritan. I remember in 2010, shortly after meeting them and only being an acquaintance at the time I got diagnosed with depression and admitted to a mental health clinic, The husband whom I hardly knew took in total 5/6 hours out of his family time to come visit and encourage me. His encouragement during his visit, really transformed my life and helped me break free from depression but that is a story for another day. Knowing myself, instead of taking a two and a half hour drive the wicked self righteous me would've felt fulfilled by comforting someone via Whatsapp and a virtual high five. My way of doing things at times, is in total contrast to the radical love and abandonment Jesus demonstrated during His physical time on earth.
The interrelation between this couple and the story of the good Samaritan, is that you never hear them complain, they use their own resources and at times use up each other’s time. The same with the good Samaritan, he did not complain. Now Jesus shared this story to expose our self-righteousness and to really demonstrate what it means to love God and people. We have three people, each on a journey and am sure these were planned journeys with purpose and set times of arrival. It could have been business appointments, church or prayer meetings etc. We have a situation where we have a victim of crime and the difference we find is that the two who represent the church could not afford to be inconvenienced as it will, not may but definitely will interfere and interrupt their plans for the day. The Samaritan on the other hand had no problem being interrupted on his journey. We see a willingness to be inconvenienced as well. He stopped so the victim has now become his responsibility, I can but only imagine the inconvenience of having to go down on his knees to assess the situation and then having to pick him up to take him to the nearest place of safety and all of this whilst being dressed in his most loved Gucci T shirt.
The interruption and inconvenience was not enough, he now had to get involved in ensuring that the wounds are cleaned up and dressed to prevent it from getting infected. I will assume that the victim’s wounds were not that serious and that a bit of rest would've done him good or that the hospitals were way too far and that the inn was the only place of safety at the time but we now see the Samaritan getting invested. So, we find that the Samaritan, despite being interrupted on his journey did not abandon his plans entirely as we're told he continued with his travels to return the following day. To ensure that the innkeeper did not feel burdened, he paid for the victims stay and any other costs incurred during the stay.
Denying convenience and comfort
In Mark 6, we see Jesus being driven by compassion despite having just heard about the murder of John his cousin and the disciples being tired, was moved by compassion and put His emotions aside to respond to the need at hand. This is so counterintuitive to societal response and as well as the "We could never be like Jesus, He is the Son of God." Truth be told, it is difficult and challenging at times to display such passion in our own strength but I firmly believe that God can strengthen the one who sincerely wants to be available like our Lord.
Facebook reminded me today of a very pleasant experience whilst away on holiday and this I believe is because of what we sowed as a family. Growing up, I was made to believe that "When in Rome do as the Romans do." was a Bible verse from the Apostle Paul. I then came to learn that the Apostle was teaching the exact opposite, Romans 12:1-8, so I did exactly as he instructed. Living in the south of England where a lot of people usually keep to themselves, we intentionally "Did not do like the English do." and reached out to our neighbours by welcoming new ones with cards and gifts, sending Easter and Christmas cards, taking out their trash, etc. The result of our actions was a very friendly neighbourhood where families started chatting outside with each other, the odd unexpected freshly baked cake or biscuits and whilst we were away on holiday, we had our trash emptied, house looked after and, on our return, found fresh milk and bread on our kitchen table.
What if we realized our potential to press on rather than withdraw. To push past the tiredness and frustrations we make too much of, anyway. To ask God to make us aware of and obedient to unexpected, maybe inconvenient opportunities to serve others. To have open homes and open hands when it’s not fun and your carpets get ruined and your free time dries up.
So, to revert to our question, “Who is my neighbour?” How we respond determines what's in our hearts. Imagine the statement it would make if we choose to be available despite our tiredness, to be willing and obedient to unexpected interruptions or inconvenience, go that extra mile and be invested and involved in serving others. Imagine the impact it would have in our neighbourhoods. “Go and do”