Once, when asked how we should live, Jesus responded that we should love the Lord our God with all of our being - heart/mind/soul/strength - and love our neighbour as we love ourself. And so he was asked, how should we define who counts as our neighbour? In other words, who do we need to extend practical expressions of love towards, and whose plight can we ignore with a clear conscience?
In reply, Jesus told a story. Once, there was a Jewish man on a journey. The man was ambushed by robbers, beaten, stripped, and left for dead on the side of the road. Not one but two of his fellow countrymen - more than that, both held respectable positions within their society - happened to be travelling along the same road, and ignored him. They did not want to get their hands dirty. Then a third man came down the road. He was a Samaritan. The Jews and the Samaritans lived side-by-side, had different religious and cultural views, and hated each other. [How contemporary.] But this man got down from his donkey, cleaned and bandaged the other's wounds, lifted him onto the donkey and took him to an inn, where he left him in the care of the inn-keeper. He himself could not stay to care for the man, but he left the inn-keeper with money to cover the cost incurred, asking that no expense be spared, as he would return and pay for any further costs later.
Jesus refused to answer the question put to him and, instead, turned it on its head: the important matter is not "who is my neighbour?" but "what kind of neighbour should I be?"
In the aftermath of the Asian tidal wave, please consider giving to the emergency response Red Cross appeal. Alternatively, consider giving to one of the other aid agencies listed, with links, on the BBC site. Thank you.
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