Summaries are dangerous things. Get them right and you can carry tomes of information in a pithy memory verse. Get them wrong and you steer people away from the truth that is contained in those volumes. Fortunately, when Jesus encounters a teacher of the law in Luke 10, he finds a man capable of summarising the law and the prophets very well.
Indeed, the entire blueprint for how humans are to interact with other humans is condensed to just five words: love your neighbour as yourself. In today’s world of complex and fast paced human connections, is this enough? It seems too simple to be serious.
When asked for more detail, Jesus responded with the story of the Good Samaritan, a parable that shows love as the guiding principle for human interaction that transforms ‘otherness’ to ‘neighbourliness’ in order to address suffering. This example shows Jesus insistence that ‘loving our neighbour as ourselves’ is the summary of the law, we are capable of it, and it can enable us to address poverty and injustice.
Inspired by the merciful Samaritan, TEAR takes up Jesus’ instruction to ‘go and do likewise’. The following are a few deliberate ways we do this:
Clearly, the Samaritan’s road was frequented by thieves. It probably would have been safer to stay at home or perhaps choose a less dangerous route. TEAR chooses to partner with Christians working in places of great need because they are in a position to personally encounter those on the dangerous roads and offer appropriate assistance.
In a brilliant twist of storytelling, Jesus chooses an outsider as his hero. The person who the Jews were forbidden to touch, speak with, or walk alongside becomes Jesus’ shining example of obedience to the law! TEAR takes this example seriously as we also choose to highlight the acts of mercy shown by our Christian partners, and recognise the extraordinary hard work of people living in poverty as they overcome injustice. We allow their acts of love to guide us as we follow Jesus.
The Samaritan chose to disregard the social, religious and cultural norms that separated him from showing mercy. The Jews’ attitude to the Samaritans was mutual and the Samaritan broke an important taboo by caring for the man on the road. TEAR also chooses to dismantle the barriers that prevent us from connecting with our neighbours, working to transform the systems of exclusion that cause poverty and marginalisation. In the context of the work of our partners, this means not only including all people into the development process, but enabling them to challenge power structures that perpetuate injustice, inequality and oppression.
Bandages, oil and wine don’t come cheap, and two denarii was at least two day’s wages. We know that showing mercy comes at a financial cost. At TEAR, we recognise that Australian Christians have financial resources that our international Christians partners need to enable them to show mercy in their context. This sets up a chain of neighbourliness that spans the oceans and reflects today’s global road.
In this edition, we celebrate the acts of neighbourliness that our partners are performing, not only as they provide for the physical needs of those who experience poverty, but as they cross the divides of social, economic, gender, race and religion. As they model what it means to be a neighbour, they are transforming communities to do likewise – to be the neighbourhoods where the Kingdom of God shines through.
As we are encouraged by these acts of neighbourliness, we remember the call in our own lives to go and do likewise, reminding ourselves that ‘love your neighbour as yourself’ is indeed the blueprint for human relationships, the guiding light that informs our interactions, and the natural extension of our love for God.