Lev.19:1-2,11-18 Ps 19:7-end Matt 25:31-end
Are you a good neighbour?
This morning’s reading from the Old Testament, on first glance seems very negative. I count twelve ‘do not’s’. The lectionary has also missed out verses 3 to 10, which would have added a few more!
The Lord said to Moses, 2 “Speak to the entire assembly of Israel and say to them: ‘Be holy because I, the Lord your God, am holy.
11 “‘Do not steal.
“‘Do not lie.
“‘Do not deceive one another.
12 “‘Do not swear falsely by my name and so profane the name of your God. I am the Lord.
13 “‘Do not defraud or rob your neighbour.
“‘Do not hold back the wages of a hired worker overnight.
14 “‘Do not curse the deaf or put a stumbling block in front of the blind, but fear your God. I am the Lord.
15 “‘Do not pervert justice; do not show partiality to the poor or favouritism to the great, but judge your neighbour fairly.
16 “‘Do not go about spreading slander among your people.
“‘Do not do anything that endangers your neighbour’s life. I am the Lord.
17 “‘Do not hate a fellow Israelite in your heart. Rebuke your neighbour frankly so you will not share in their guilt.
18 “‘Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against anyone among your people, but love your neighbour as yourself. I am the Lord.
A close inspection of these laws shows a standard which protects both us and our neighbours. In this context, our neighbours are anyone we might come into contact with. I also believe that these laws protect us from ourselves and they promote a loving attitude. The Old Testament laws, passed on from Moses, predate social media, but the principle still holds on how our conduct might impact people, whether in the real or virtual world. There are so many ways we can reach people today, with communication at our fingertips.
In the parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke chapter 10), Jesus made it clear that your neighbour might be someone who’s path you have never crossed before (assuming you don’t walk on the other side of the road). Although this parable was an example of helping someone in dire need, we will come across people this week not necessarily lying unconscious by the road, who we can nevertheless bless with a word of encouragement, or even to just to allow them the opportunity to be listened to.
With respect to the wider law, especially the ten commandments, we can see two distinct categories. Those laws outlining our actions and attitudes towards God, and those dealing with those around us. When Jesus was challenged (in order to trap him) to state which was the most important commandment, he replied (Matt 22:37), “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.” This was a direct quote of Deut 6:5, summing up the first category which covers our relationship with God. He went on to quote the other section of the law concerning our relationship with people, by quoting this passage we have read today from Leviticus, “Love your neighbour as yourself.”
The expression we seem to have adopted recently is “new normal”, which we could morph into “new opportunities”. As a church we might now think of ourselves as a united congregation of those who love the Lord, by taking ‘church’ with us wherever we go; rather than describing activity being limited to meeting in a building. Who will God bring you into contact with this week? Let us be mindful of opportunities which are presented to us, to be a good neighbour.
Help us to be good neighbours this week, and let us be your church wherever we go. Prompt us to shine for you and to share the unfathomable depths of your love with those we meet physically or virtually. Enable us to be Good Samaritans and put into action the words of Jesus to ‘go and do likewise’.
Tomorrow’s reading: Isa 55:10-11