Who is my neighbour?

Neighbours Day 2018:

It’s Neighbour’s Day on both the 24th and 25th of this month (March). I wondered how you are going to celebrate this special and valuable day? I wonder if you’ve asked the question at the heart of Neighbour’s Day “Who is my neighbour?” This question, which was asked of Jesus by a teacher of the Law no less, has echoed down through the ages and is, perhaps, more pertinent now in this day and age than at any other time.

In this day of refugee crisis, growing international tension and shocking civil war; in this day of homelessness and of breakdown of community identity throughout the Western world, surely the one major question we must ask is who is my neighbour.

neighboursday18-page-001.jpg I find there are two aspects to this question which must be answered – one which is essentially political and one which is far more relational.

The first political question simply asks who should we consider is on our side – who believes as we do – who sees the world as we see it and, further, who will help us when we need help.

This is a deeply problematical way of putting the question because the essential thrust of the question is to separate the world into those we will accept and those we will reject. It is very much the same question in the same spirit which was put to Jesus. “Who can I rule out so I don’t have to be neighbourly to everyone?”

It’s the question which is now finding political sympathy across Europe with the rise of deeply worrying separatist and exclusivist parties in France, Germany, Britain and other nations.

The second way to frame the question is to emphasise the relational aspect of it so that the question is really asking us to get to know our neighbours. It therefore asks us not to exclude anyone but to get to know them better. It asks not so much, “Who is my neighbours”? but “Do I know my neighbour?”

In many ways this was how Jesus chose to answer the question put to him. He did not offer any clue about how to make a decision as to who was ‘in or out’ but instead he showed through the story he told what it meant to be a neighbor, and how to get to know one’s neighbour.

Who is my neighbour? You are the one who: needs my help, needs my protection, needs my open heart, needs my understanding…who doesn’t need my judgement, my prejudice, my suspicion, or my lack of generosity.

On this special Neighbours Day 24 to 25 March, let’s return to this key value of Kiwi society – we are all cousins – we are all that person who is in need of welcoming, and a helping hand. We are all neighbours!

Richard D