July 10, 2022: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, your mind, your strength."
“Love the Lord your God with all your heart, your mind, your strength and your neighbour as yourself”
Jesus could really tell a good story and get in the upper hand in a theological argument or debate at the same time! The parable of the “Good Samaritan” is probably Jesus’ most familiar of all the parables. It is a cliche, it is synonymous with trying to do the right thing. It is even law - the “Good Samaritan” laws protect people to who try to do the correct the right thing - even if a life cannot be saved.
Does this mean that there is nothing that the story can teach us now (question mark).
NO! We still need to hear this story - again and again. This was a welcome story to Luke’s Gentile audience - they could identify - and the Samaritan - a hated enemy of the Jews would resonate with many.
The clergy walk on by - there is no excuse for their behaviour - nothing can excuse their refusal to reach out.
The parable is more than etiquette for travelers or encouragement to behave compassionately or with generosity. The parable demands that we embrace opportunities to practice love for others in powerful ways and perhaps learn from surprising sources how to do that!
To love God is to love neighbour is to love God.
The direction God desires is the way of love and compassion for others
Loving neighbour in need as messy as that might be is the Christian way to love our Lord.
The question comes to Jesus and to us - who is my neighbour
Much of our culture maintains the traditional expectation that my neighbour is similar to me. Similar perhaps in ethnicity or religion or economic status. With this understanding a neighbourhood is an area that houses similar people and this similarity affords people psychological comfort and support.
But this definition of neighbour is not what Jesus was talking about.
Neighbour used to be pretty clear - my neighbour lived near me. That is not the case for us. We have access to people all over the world. We can travel by air and sea and rail and road. Because of news channels on tv or information flooding our social media we are aware of whats going on all over the world - virtually as it happens.
Who is my neighbour ( question mark)
My neighbour is a child from the Horn of Africa starving due to a drought. My neighbour is someone in a subway station fleeing the bombing of their city in the Ukraine. My neighbour is a victim of hate crimes. My neighbour is a refugee. My neighbour is …….. I am sure you can help me fill in the blanks.
Our neighbours are no longer our next door neighbours or even down the street. Our neighbours are our sisters and brothers around the world. Our neighbours may not look or sound like us or eat the food we eat or believe what we believe. But they are our neighbours in God’s kingdom.
The lawyer who questions Jesus and asks who is my neighbour cannot bring himself to say “Samaritan” when Jesus asks him who was the neighbour.
But he can bring himself to say - the one who behaved with kindness. And this is the heart of the parable. Kindness. Humans have a natural inclination or impulse to kindness. Kindness is the true mark of the neighbour. This message is so important in our world where often kindness is absent.
During the pandemic we heard “Be Kind” all the time - we were urged to be kind because we must have needed the reminder to!
When I am driving I usually listen to the radio - and from Brighton to Toronto and back again I listen to Boom 97.3 here in Toronto. The morning dj has a segment called “Tell me something good”. Its examples of people behaving with kindness - loving their neighbour as themselves. Its stories shared by listeners or ripped from the headlines or social media. Its a “feel good” segment. And it can make you cry or cheer or smile. But its a daily reminder that kindness matters - little things or bigger things. But they matter because when we are kind - when we care about others instead of just ourselves we make the world a better place.
Love God, love neighbour which is loving God.
I do believe that we can be, should be - are motivated by kindness toward one another - its not only neighbourly - its a way of survival. It’s the heart of the parable of the Good Samaritan. Its the heart of the Gospel message.