Weather forecasts have been a vital resource in recent weeks here in the UK - warning us to prepare for extreme weather conditions - helping us to plan journeys - several times we were advised to stay at home in all but emergencies. So bad was the weather, that many rural communities were isolated, unable to receive even basic supplies, and the thaw itself was a mixed blessing when pipes burst and power lines were cut.
Thoughts of neighbourliness seemed significant, especially reading and hearing the messages in the media. Acts of kindness often went beyond the call of duty, in helping people who became housebound. My thought for the day was prompted by hearing of the ways in which people rallied round to care for their neighbours.
As a Bible reader I jumped to the most famous story or parable of Jesus, namely The Good Samaritan; although this was told around 2000 years ago, it is as relevant today as it was then.
Here is the outline of the story... [It's in Luke 10:25-37 - Quotations in italics below are from The New King James Bible.]
A man was travelling from Jerusalem to Jericho when he was set upon by thieves and left to suffer or even die by the roadside. Travellers, who could and should have helped, passed by on the other side of the road. Among them were those who were looked up to for their faith - a priest and a Levite. It was only when a third person, a Samaritan, came, that help was offered. At this point in the parable it should be pointed out that Samaritans were shunned by many Jews, even to the point that Jews would not go through Samaria. This adds emphasis both to the kindness of this third passer-by and to Jesus' answer to the lawyer’s initial question: Who is my Neighbour? Not only did the Samaritan show compassion, but he dressed the man’s wounds and took him to the nearest place of help, an inn. Here he gave money to the host to cover the care of the man who now had nothing. The Samaritan then went further still, promising that on his return he would cover any further care costs.
The whole purpose of this parable was to answer the question put to Jesus by the lawyer: What shall I do to inherit eternal life? Jesus' answer was also in the form of a question: What is written in the law? and the key to the episode is the lawyer’s answer: You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind, and your neighbour as yourself. He answered correctly, but it seems that Jesus had made him uncomfortable, because he pursued the point, asking: And who is my neighbour? The lawyer knew the law and its meanings, and his answer had correctly identified the neighbour - He who showed mercy. So Jesus said, Go and do likewise.
The underlying message of the parable, and all Scripture, is to teach the importance of loving God, but also to show the impossibility of loving God unless we love our neighbours as ourselves. [VS]