Nothing embodies the spirit of camping more than the camaraderie of re-pitching your tents together in the pouring rain in the pitch black. Yes, it may look sunny in that picture, but a mere twelve hours later every tent on that field was flooded or collapsed and the display of care from absolute strangers as tea was made over stoves was incredible to see. So clearly your neighbour isn’t simply a friend…
One of my placements as an Intern is helping to lead a youth group for 11-14 year olds. This term we have been looking at some of the parables Jesus used in his teaching and last week it was my turn to lead a session on ‘the Parable of the Good Samaritan’. Whilst this is a story that many of us could repeat at the drop of a hat I was deeply challenged when preparing the study at the depth of teaching these 12 verses can offer.
We can grasp the importance of loving our neighbour and that our neighbour is anyone who needs our help, even at a material cost to ourselves. Nothing embodies this better than the shared camaraderie of a campsite (especially if bad weather is involved!). When this is followed by the realisation that Samaritans and Jews really did not get along we are able to comprehend that this love can require sacrifice in the form of loving those who are traditionally our enemies.
But what about loving our neighbours who we just find a little bit annoying? Or our neighbours who we find just a little bit more challenging to love? Do we truly apply this teaching from Jesus in these circumstances to our neighbours? Or do we assume that Jesus’ command was somehow conditional, or that someone else will love them for us, someone for whom it will be easier…
In that case, who in the story do we become like? Unfortunately, I think we can probably all think of far too many examples of times where we have behaved more like the priest and the Levite; too wrapped up in our own holiness to risk loving a neighbour when it could get messy. Thankfully, God has grace for us in these situations and there is the opportunity to try again. And we can do better: Jesus ends this section of teaching with an instruction about how to love our neighbour that is so simple it almost seems impossible:
‘Which of these three, do you think was a neighbour to the man who fell into the hands of the robbers?’ The lawyer said, ‘The one who showed him mercy.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Go and do likewise.’Luke 10.36-37 (emphasis added)
In the youth group we used this command from Jesus to pray about someone we each personally struggled to be a neighbour to, in order to ask for God’s guidance in how we can show mercy and kindness to them. Maybe God has placed someone on your heart whilst reading this?