Just recently I heard a scholarly gentlemen say that the main teaching of the story of the Good Neighbour (a.k.a. The Good Samaritan) was that God will treat us with mercy and kindness when he finds us in need.
This application, as true as the teaching may be, marginalises and makes secondary the central and primary message of the story: that for life to be as God designed it we need to love our neighbours as ourselves. Jesus was not talking about God’s behaviour to humans, but about the awesome nature of humans’ love to each other.
At Urban Seed we talk a lot about being Good Neighbours, seeking to put it into practice as we walk alongside people doing it tough in everyday life. So, what was Jesus teaching in this story that we need to take on board?
Jesus is re-defining the concept of neighbour and the expression of neighbourliness. In the story, the Good Neighbour is kind, generous, self-sacrificial, merciful, and gracious. These are now to be seen as primary expressions of Good Neighbourliness. Being a Good Neighbour is not just the absence of ill will or bad behaviour. Nor is it simply lending someone a lawn mower or chatting over the back fence. It goes further than that. Being a good neighbour is about doing good deeds that benefit another – with no thought of being paid back in any form.
Jesus’ Good Neighbour story is also about doing away with social exclusion. Social exclusion is an evil that God denounces. Under a theology of Good Neighbourliness, racism and any other form of ism – which includes one in a circle of love and excludes another – is to be decried. This is especially so for the peoples who are discarded by society as being non-valuables.
It is our calling, as Good Neighbours, to turn the tide. We are to be Good Neighbours to all, especially to those who are experiencing disadvantage. Because everyone needs a place of inclusion. Everyone needs a place to belong. These are the re-defined priorities of discipleship.
But it is not only Jesus who talked about the importance of being a Good Neighbour. Franklin D Roosevelt, in his first address as US President in 1933 said this:
In the field of world policy I would dedicate this Nation to the policy of the Good Neighbour – the neighbour who resolutely respects himself and, because he does so, respects the rights of others – the neighbour who respects his obligations and respects the sanctity of his agreements in and with a world of neighbours.
Furthermore, in the Preamble of The Charter of the United Nations (1945) it states:
We the Peoples of the United Nations express determination to practice tolerance and live together in peace with one another as good neighbours.
It seems Australia could take a few lessons from Roosevelt and from the United Nations on being a Good Neighbour in the global neighbourhood.
Closer to home, the Australian Psychological Association Paper, ‘Public Consultation on Breaking the Cycle of Disadvantage’ (2010) stated:
There is a growing awareness that disadvantage can be mitigated, and in turn overcome, by addressing social exclusion and strengthening communities…. In short, it appears that the processes and locations of communities and neighbourhoods are an important consideration in addressing disadvantage.
So, we all agree: Psychology, Politics, International Strategists and Jesus. Good synergy there. As Urban Seed continues to be committed to making a difference by being Good Neighbours, it’s affirming to be reminded that we are supported by a cloud of witnesses. To have you partner with us would be great.
Food for Thought.