Who’s my Neighbour

There is a lot of discussion as to who is my neighbour. It takes lots of different guises like; who is my ‘brother’; who is British; who’s living or committed to British values. In America it can be; who will make America great again — he is our true neighbour.

Put another way ‘who is my neighbour’ is about who can I really trust. Who will be with me when it really matters.

Perhaps this story will help give an insight into who is truly ‘our neighbour’.

“A man was going from New York to Boston, at one point he stopped to help someone he thought was in trouble; only to find it was a trap and he was car jacked by the group of ruthless conmen. They dragged him out of his car beat him, took his wallet, credit cards, laptop and drove away, leaving him for dead.

A church leader from a local independent church happened to be to be driving by just after the attack but when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side thinking it’s a trap.

A little later, a well known politician came to the same place and saw him, but was in a hurry to get to his next appointment and drove by on the other side thinking someone else will help.

Then a priest from the catholic church came to same spot and again drove by.

Then someone who was on their way to help serve in the local food bank drove by but didn’t want to get distracted but another need and just drove on.

A Muslim man was driving with his family on their way to an important family function. As they traveled, they also came to the place where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him and stopped. At first the injured man was frightened as the Muslim man looked different and spoke with a middle eastern accent and he tried to push him away. But the Muslim man reassured him and called to his wife to bring the first aid kit. They took care of his wounds as best they could, gave him water and laid him in his car.

He then took him to the nearest hospital and had him admitted where the medical staff could take care of him, the man was now near death. The police were called and the Muslim man had to book his family into the local motel while he endured questioning by the police for most of the night. The next day, tired and exhausted, he went back to the hospital and met with the hospitals finance administrator. He arranged for the medical costs of the injured man to be taken care of and continued on his journey with his family.”

Which of these do you think was a neighbour to the man who was attacked? Which one could be trusted? Which one was a good citizen? Which one exhibited true British values or represented the greatness of America or more simply acted with the most humanity?

The problem we so often face is the lack of knowing or understanding that leads to fear. We look at people that are different, whether in colour or dress or language or accent or tradition or religion or politics and we make them the ‘other’ because they are unfamiliar to us or we have heard about these ‘kinds of people’. As soon as we do that we start the process of de-humanising — even demonizing them! These people, these human beings become ‘them’ or ‘they’ instead of him or her or John or Rehana or Kendall or Muhammad. We don’t take the time to get to know them, to understand them, we think that we know but we don’t.

So the question turns on its head from ‘who is my neighbour’ to ‘who am I going to be a neighbour to’ from ‘who can I trust’ to ‘who can trust me’. From are ‘they’ living ‘British values’ to ‘am I going to live out the ‘British values’ of acceptance etc. Am I going the express and live the attitude that America was founded on and made it great:

‘Give me your tired, your poor, 
 Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free. 
 The wretched refuse of your teeming shore. 
 Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me. 
 I lift my lamp beside the golden door!’

This is not a new phenomenon. It’s ‘ages’ old! It raises its head wherever there is difference and diversity and one of the ‘differences’ thinks it is right or superior or becomes fearful of the unknown. It happens where people are not willing to try and understand, or refuse to find common ground, and instead, they choose to accentuate the difference.

The story above is a version of the one Jesus told in the first century! In answer to two huge questions one about ‘how to achieve eternal life’ and the other about ‘who is my neighbour’. He gave a simple answer illustrated with a story.

In terms of eternal life:

‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbour as yourself.’

In terms of ‘who is my neighbor’ he tells the story and asks who was the injured man’s real neighbour

“The one who had mercy on him.” Was the answer.

Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.”

In other words — live out loving God by loving your neighbour. Nothing else.

So, what’s your choice — to be good neighbour or not!!??

grant o'sullivan