Go and do likewise

Luke 10:37

The parable of the Good Samaritan was told in response to the question posed by a lawyer who asked "And who is my neighbour?" Previously, this man had asked Jesus “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?" He was told that in order to gain eternal life one was required to love God and his neighbour.

The question “who is my neighbour” might be genuine but it can have the opposite result of what it seems it wants to achieve. Really, it is a question that is designed to set boundaries and seeks to determine who is in and who is out. There is a danger in this question as it can be used as an excuse for not crossing boundaries to offer help and assistance to persons who might be in need of our love.

“Who is my neighbour?”  Do we have limits and restrictions? Are my neighbours Barbadians only? Are my neighbours persons from our neighbouring Islands? Are prostitutes, homosexuals, and criminals our neighbours? Are persons with disabilities our neighbours? Are persons living with HIV/AIDS our neighbours? Are persons who differ from us politically, socially, economically and racially our neighbours? Are persons who differ from us religiously and philosophically our neighbours? Are the undesirables our neighbours? Yes.

The parable of the Good Samaritan teaches that every person is a neighbour and has a claim on our love. The Samaritan proves he is a neighbour by his unconditional love, mercy and compassion. Without regard to race, religion, creed, social class, education, nationality and the like, the people we ‘touch’ for better or for worse are our neighbours. The parable answers the question “who is my neighbour’ by indicating that anyone who needs our help is our neighbour.

The question therefore should not be “Who is my neighbour?” This is the wrong question; it should be “To whom can I be a neighbour?” To whom can I be loving, caring, compassionate and kind?
After relating the story to the lawyer Jesus asked him, “Which of these three, do you think, proved neighbour to the man who fell among the robbers?"  and he said, "The one who showed mercy on him."  Jesus said to him, "Go and do likewise."

The instruction “Go and do likewise” is applicable to our church. We are called to be neighbours to the people with whom we come into contact with. This advice informs our mission as a church and challenges us to have a genuine concern for life in our community. We are to be neighbours to the people in Bayville, Bonnetts ,  Brittons Hill, Chelsea, the patients at the Geriatric Hospital, the persons who come to the Blind Work Shop. Wherever any need exists in the local community it calls us to act neighbourly. Our parish vision which says “Our vision is to be an inclusive and embracing parish, welcoming all and witnessing to Christ’s love and justice” is a response to today’s gospel reading.

We cannot live for ourselves; if we do we will die. If this parish lives for itself it will fail to be a neighbour. Who are the people within our communities to whom we can be a neighbour? The parable asks us to exercise our stewardship by using our time, talents and treasure to help someone who needs our help. Every day, every week, as the case maybe, we should devote some of our time and treasure to help someone.

Can you think of anyone to whom this parish can be a neighbour? Can you think of anyone to whom you can be a neighbour?

Some of the evils that prevent us from being a neighbour are envy, greed, selfishness, jealousy and covetousness. They kill the spirit of cooperation, mercy and compassion. Where they are present they lead to fear and suspicion and we act unkindly towards people. The competitive spirit on which our society is built does not encourage us to act neighbourly. The prevailing philosophy which says we must succeed at all cost forces us to think about self only and in the process we engage in all kinds of activities that are not in the interest of the neighbour. We oppress people, exploit persons, destroy individuals and make life a living hell for many as we pursue our selfish interests. I am sure some of us have fallen victims to persons who failed to treat us as neighbours.

As we think about the Christian requirement to always act neighbourly, some might ask, How can I be a neighbour to those who persecute me, do me harm and wish me evil?  How can I be a neighbour to the people who live next door and play the music loudly? How can I be a neighbour to my co-worker who makes my life difficult? How can I be a neighbour to my spouse who has been unfaithful? How can I be a neighbour to the person whom I thought was my friend?

By loving them.  Bless and do not curse.

We are not to think only about ourselves, but to think about others. We are to follow the example of Jesus Christ who shared and gave his life for humankind. We live fulfilled lives when we act neighbourly. “If I can help somebody as I pass along, then my living shall not be in vain.”

The man who fell victim to bandits as he travelled from Jerusalem to Jericho was robbed of his human dignity. This man was the victim of a naked act of aggression and violence which compromised his self-esteem, self-respect and pride. The victim not be forgotten. By going to his assistance the Samaritan restored the victim’s dignity. We act neighbourly when like the Samaritan we offer assistance that helps to restore people’s human dignity.
Violence of any kind be it physical, verbal or psychological, rob people of their dignity. Part of our responsibility in acting neighbourly is to identify the perpetrators of all forms of violence that cheat people of their pride. Not only are we to identify them but we must have the courage to name them.

Within the context of the parable a bandit is anyone who deliberately through acts of violence of any kind robs a person of his or her human dignity. Like the man who fell victim to bandits, there are many persons in our society who have their human dignity compromised and need a neighbour to help them regain it. They are the victims of bandits who have no regard for the rights and value of the individuals. Neighbourly love finds expression in the golden rule: “So whatever you wish that men would do to you, do so to them.”

What are the forms of violence in our society that rob our citizens of their human dignity? Who are the perpetrators of this violence? Who are the bandits in our society?

The parable of the Good Samaritans does not say that we have to like everybody but that we are obliged to LOVE everybody. This is the challenge which we all faced, to be Samaritans, to be a neighbour.
“Which of these three, do you think, proved neighbour to the man who fell among the robbers?"  and he said, "The one who showed mercy on him."  Jesus said to him, "Go and do likewise."

Are we bandits or Samaritans?

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