Neighbours July 14, 2013; Luke 10:25-37
A minister preached on the story of the Good Samaritan, and could see one of the parishioners was very agitated. She came up to the minister after the service and asked if loving our neighbour was supposed to be literal or metaphorical. She had no trouble loving people in Africa and South America, and gave generously to several charitable organizations that worked in those places. Loving those metaphorical neighbours was pretty easy. How could she love her neighbour whose dogs barked often through the night, and who burned garbage in their firepit, took up the parking in front of her house, and often went out of their way to insult and offend her. The only thing she could think of that was harder than loving these neighbours was loving her cousin whom she had hated from when they were both 7 years old.
A scholar in religious law hoped for an easier way to be right with God, and, when told we are to love our neighbour as ourselves, he asked who is my neighbour. Jesus answered with the story of the Good Samaritan. While this story has been preached on thousands of times with careful exposition from many angles, it has two simple points. Each of us chooses our answer to that question. Jesus did not draw any boundaries for who is a neighbour.
In the aftermath of the flood of 2013, we have interesting contrasts. At the time many things happened.. Many people went out of their way to help people hurt by the floods. Work crews from Red Deer and Saskatoon were in Calgary with their pump trucks emptying out basements and other places of water.
The homeless people who stayed at the Drop-In Centre were temporarily at the old Quality Inn on McKnight and Edmonton Trail without kitchen facilities because their neighbours were intensely opposed to the Drop-In Centre using the Quality Inn for housing for working people too poor to afford other accommodation.
Thieves exploited opportunities to break into and rob temporarily abandoned homes.
Our diverse humanness was fully on display. Instructors at a seminary decided to try an experiment. They had a thorough presentation on the story of the Good Samaritan for a class of their students. After the presentation, the students needed to leave that building and go for lunch in another building. In between the two buildings, an actor playing the role of a person who had been beaten, robbed and left by the side of the walk was placed. Most of the students went out of their way to avoid getting close to this person. in spite of just finishing the session on this story. All of us are human.
My questions for this Sunday are as follows:
Why am I able to love my neighbour as myself when I do this?
Why am I not able to love my neighbour as myself when I don’t?
Evolutionary biologists have done considerable research developing theories showing compassion is a genetic characteristic responding to evolutionary pressures. Behavioral psychologists would just claim that is how we are taught. My theory is that we are made in God`s image. Since God is self-giving, most of us or all of us are made to find personal fulfillment in showing love to others. Many people see other people as brothers and sisters in a global family and see their own well-bring reflected in and supported by the well-being of others. Giving love reveals and confirms our own abilities, strengths, and capacities. When I am able to give, I prove that I had wealth to share.
I am not able to love my neighbour when fear or anger intrude. The fear may be of the neighbour, or of not having enough for myself, or of not having enough for others higher on my priority list. The anger may be rooted in jealousy or learned hatred or one of many other possibilities. Whenever we find ourselves unable to love our neighbour, we uncover our poverty, our weakness, and our deficiencies. Seeking to understand our inability to love a neighbour provides an opportunity for us to determine what we lack or need. In those opportunities, we are given excuses or reasons to invite God into our lives in particular ways, to help us address our neediness.
Over the course of the summer as we work, play, rest, shop, and travel, we will probably encounter several opportunities to show to ourselves that we do love our neighbour as we love ourselves. May the Spirit help us do so, affirming our status as God’s children.