Tag: neighbours

neighbours, everybody needs good neighbours

[This post was written on 19th June and does not appear to have made it into the full bloggage history, so I repost it now for completeness. Apologies if you got it more than once.]

reaching hands

The news recently has contained harrowing accounts of a number of hate-motivated attacks, the most recent at the time of posting this was against Muslims in Finsbury Park. They have left me with a number of deep-rooted emotional responses. The first is deep, deep sadness for those who have been injured and bereaved; secondly there is anger that fellow-humans are treating each other in this way; the third is powerlessness that there is nothing I can do that will make a difference. And then I stopped and reflected on the third emotional response and that led me to write this tweet:

We pride ourselves on being a tolerant society but recent events show us it’s not enough. We need to LOVE our neighbours #lovenothate

It’s not that I think that by tweeting I can make much of a difference on my own. But the power of social media is that we can share our ideas, thoughts and emotions much more widely than ever before and that might make a huge difference. One brick on its own may make a couple of people trip up, but thousands of bricks together can create a a tidal defence that will hold back a flood of hatred. If you doubt me, consider this… last weekend all across the country hundreds of thousands of people engaged in The Great Get Together. It was a series of community events inspired by the late Jo Cox MP and her words: “We are far more united and have far more in common with each other than that which divides us.” We got on board with this rather too late to organise a street party but we had some of our neighbours around for a barbecue. It was lovely to get to know each other a little more and come out from behind our front doors. It was a glimpse of what community could be like if we tried.

Coming back to my tweet, and bearing in mind that for me the origin of “we need to love our neighbours” was the encounter Jesus had with a lawyer who wanted to look impressive (what a surprise!). It’s recorded for us in Luke’s account of the life, teaching, death and resurrection of Jesus in Luke 10.

The lawyer had asked Jesus what he had to do to “inherit eternal life”. Now he should have known (as a lawyer) that his question was fundamentally flawed. You can’t do anything to inherit something. An inheritance is a gift from another. But Jesus knew that the bloke wanted more than a semantic argument so he asked him what he thought the Old Testament said about it. (They didn’t have a New Testament at the time, they were living it!) The lawyer gave the stock answer which was to keep the Commandments and that is summarised as ‘Love God, love your neighbour’.

In order to show how impressive he was the lawyer asked a follow-up question, which he probably regretted afterwards: “Who is my neighbour?” That’s when Jesus told the parable of the Good Samaritan. If you’re not familiar with it follow the link above and read it. But make the man a violent racist and the Samaritan a muslim and you’ll get an idea of the shocking nature of the story and how radical it was that Jesus made the Samaritan the hero.

But the man didn’t actually get an answer to his question. The question was “Who is my neighbour?” but the story answered a different question. The message of the story is not that our neighbours are anyone in need. The message of the story is that to discover who our neighbours are we first need to examine ourselves and discover our self-justified prejudices, our self-obsessed self-interest, and our compassion-fatigue. We need to let go of those and see that we define who our neighbours are. The number of neighbours we have is limited only by the limits of our love.

And yes, let’s say that word. Love. Not mushy romantic love. Not lustful carnal love. Not even the love we have for our families. But rugged, determined, self-denying, putting others first and considering the needs of others love. If the story of the Good Samaritan didn’t tell the lawyer who his neighbour was it did give him a glimpse of how he was to love his neighbour when he worked out who it was!

make a dealWe pride ourselves on being a tolerant society but recent events show us it’s not enough. We need to LOVE our neighbours #lovenothate

Be blessed, be a blessing.

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so ronery

I miss regular, meaningful human contact. That is one of the down-sides of locking myself away in my study to read, pray and reflect for 3 months. It is one of the reasons why I am really enjoying going off to visit other churches to talk with them about how God has used and blessed them in their mission and ministry.

It reminds me of a shameful episode in my past. When I was a student at the vicar factory that trained me (Spurgeon’s College) I had very long summer breaks. My wonderful wife, Sally, was working in order to keep us afloat financially. My friends and colleagues at College had dispersed around the country. I got lonely.

Our house was just off Beckenham High Street and on a particularly lonely morning I left home in order to stroll around and just be near people. But I wanted more. I wanted human conversation.

There were lots of shops around, but we had very little money, so I hit on the idea of going into the shops and asking the assistants to demonstrate different products. It was great. I found out about the merits of different TVs and video recorders (ask your parents kids); I found out about different sorts of light fittings and dimmer switches; I tried on different items of clothing (male); I think I even got the relative merits of different sports equipment explained to me.

In the end, however, I had to stop. I felt that I had exhausted the plausible reasons for going into different shops. I felt that I knew all it was reasonable for a shopper to know about the different products on offer (especially to those on a tight budget).*

Little did I know that years later God would call me to a church that is located in a town centre, surrounded by shops. Now if I am honest we have not had the best relationship with the surrounding shops. Some of them, I think, get a bit frustrated by the number of cars that come and go on a Sunday morning, nudging their product stands and A-boards outside (there’s no pavement). In the past I think some of them have been a bit put out by the loud activities that have taken place outside our church without warning.

But I have taken my experiences born of loneliness and applied them to the different shops in the immediate area around us. A couple of them are hairdressers, and it’s a bit difficult for me (see photo in ‘about me’) to justify going in there as a customer. But I have tried to start up conversations with any of the shopkeepers I have met. I go around them all at Christmas and give them a card from our church. When we did ‘Get In The Picture’ last year I spoke with those opposite it and asked if they minded and discovered that they loved the idea (as they also like it when the Salvation Army band play on our forecourt) because it attracted people to the area. I have got to know some of them quite well (and have even had some product demonstrations), and use them in preference to other stores when I need something they stock.

I am still acutely conscious that we could do more.

And I know they are not exactly what Jesus had in mind when he spoke about neighbours (Good Samaritan and all that) but they are our geographical neighbours and we need to be good neighbours to them. Who are your neighbours? Who is near you today? How can you serve / bless them?

Be blessed, be a blessing

see, buttons and knobs on the front of a telly – and nobody was HD ready!

*There was a bonus to this. Later on, when we had a small amount of money and wanted to buy a colour TV I was able to go back to the electronics store and they remembered me. I bought a 14″ portable TV from them that was an ex-display model for a very good price. It had buttons on the front to push to change channel, and knobs to turn to change the volume, contrast and brightness. (Yes, that’s what we used to have in the olden days).

But I was lazy. I wanted a remote control. I think it was around Christmas because we had some long cardboard tubes that had been surrounded by wrapping paper before we surrounded some presents with the wrapping paper. I had a brainwave and joined two of them together to make a very long tube, and put some tape over the end. Onto that tape I stuck a blob of BluTack (other sticky non sticky stuff is available). This was perfect for being able to sit in a chair or on the settee and reach the TV to push the buttons to change channel, or twist the knobs to change the volume.

Shame it was before the days of Dragons’ Den!