“And the second is like it: `Love your neighbour as yourself.”
(The Seventh in the Monday Series – “Obey everything I have commanded you”)
We often tend to think of our neighbours as the people who live on either side of us. In some societies these are the people whom we know the least, as we avoid contact with them in order to preserve our privacy. A friend of mine came to me one day and said that he had realised that to his daughter her neighbours were all the names in her mobile phone directory. This was a new thought to me, and an interesting one, as these would be the people with whom she would have some form of regular contact. They had an identity and an existence in her life as well as some degree of relationship. She would ‘see’ them quite regularly – maybe not in the flesh but through a phone call or text message. At the very least she might become aware of them as she scrolled down to find another name.
Jesus was asked one day who our neighbour is. He responded with the story of The Good Samaritan, making the point that our neighbour is anyone whom we see who has a need. In this case the need was so obvious that people had to go out of their way to avoid the person concerned. He was as clearly apparent as was Lazerus begging at the gate of the rich man.
Wherever we start, the second commandment is so closely linked to the first and great commandment that Jesus makes them inseparable. He is in fact saying that we cannot truly love God if we do not simultaneously love those around us. That love may be expressed in many ways but the starting point is to acknowledge their existence, as well as taking time to discern that they all have needs of one sort or another. Each one of us has within us the capacity to love them in some meaningful way –a way that does not necessarily involve money, although it might.
Most of us will have mobile phones with a contact list – and we will tend to have them with us all the time. Suddenly it becomes a portable prayer list. It is the easiest thing in the world to take them out, when we have a few spare moments, pray for all or some of them, and send a quick sms to one or two with whom we haven’t had contact for some time.
However, we must not let this seduce us away from the other, stronger needs with which we come into contact, or of which we are made aware. It is a start, and one which begins to take our focus away from ourselves – which is where the world of advertising would have it – and on to what someone has described as the silent screams all around us. For many we could be God’s answer to their prayers and cries for love and help. God sent Moses to the Israelites, Jesus to the world and the disciples to the nations – to whom will He send us this week?
Look, listen and love someone today. It is not an option but a commandment! And you can!
Father, You love me with an everlasting love. You also love those around me. Please help me to become more aware of their needs and to respond to them with blessing. Amen.