Who is my neighbour?
So a lawyer once asked Jesus. Jesus had just told him that if he wanted to be right with God
he had to love God with all his might and love his neighbour as himself. So who exactly, the
lawyer wanted to know, is my neighbour? Is it the person who lives in the same part of town
as me? Who thinks the same way? Who believes in all the things I believe in? Who lives my
kind of life? This was the kind of neighbour the lawyer was ready to love as himself. This, after
all, is the kind of neighbour we can all get on with… usually.
Except neighbours do not seem to be doing so well at the moment… the European
communities for a start, as negotiations continue between our government and those in
Europe over Brexit and what exactly withdrawal from the European Union is going to look like.
And further afield neighbourly relations are looking strained as well. The recent escalation of
verbal aggression between North Korea and the United States has threatened neighbours in
the firing line. And then there are President Trump’s repeated attempts to close the US
borders to a number of nationalities, never mind his plans for a wall between him and his
Jesus’ answer to the question ‘who is my neighbour’ was to tell the parable of the Good
A man was travelling from Jerusalem to Jericho when he was attacked by brigands, stripped,
beaten and left for dead. A priest happened to be going down the same road, but when he
saw his injured fellow countryman he walked past on the opposite side. A religious scholar
also came by the place. And he too went past on the opposite side without stopping.
Eventually a Samaritan, someone from another country and another culture, a member of a
community ordinarily at odds with the Jewish people, arrived. Filled with pity he came over to
the injured man, bound up his wounds and took him on his beast to the nearest inn. There he
left money with the innkeeper towards the injured man’s care.
So who, Jesus asked the lawyer, was the real neighbour here?
Jesus was not really bothered about defining who exactly our neighbour is or is not. He was
much more interested in neighbourliness. For him the key question was not ‘who is my
neighbour’ – who do I have to love, and who don’t I? For Jesus the key question was ‘to
whom can I be a neighbour’ – who needs my love and care? And the answer to that is far
We will soon be celebrating harvest once again -
month, and most probably in the villages around us for several weeks to come – giving thanks
for the crops safely gathered in, for refrigerators full of food and supper tables laden with
goodies. In church we will be thanking God for his goodness and care in providing for us so
generously; and reminding ourselves that our response to God’s generosity is to be generous
ourselves, and to ensure that the harvest is fruitful and a blessing for all who need it as well.
And sadly, we are not short of neighbours to choose from.
Canon Jane Curtis