Picture: Refugees, or boat people. A father and two children. As someone said, “Look these people in the face as you push them back out to sea.” Don’t hide behind our government we send to do it. Do it yourself. We are rejecting these people for our own security and our own welfare. We are putting property before people, building a fence around our land and saying to others, “This is my place.” This is so contrary to Jesus and yet it is the way we are mostly taught to behave as Christians.
This photo shows us the current state of our world. There is one problem we face and it is a lack of neighbourliness. We have nourished ideas of separation from those who are different from us. We have taught others that this separation and lack of care for people different to us is the way we are to fix our world’s problems. Instead of showing the light of Christ, we have used his name to shun the world and protect ourselves.
Recently we had strife around the land where our ministry is based. There were killings between different groups of people and the army had to move in with more troops and heavy equipment to secure the peace. When things settled down one of our team members saw a group of people wandering near our 30 acres of land. He made enquires about their needs and found they were a group of our neighbours in this semi-rural area. Their cattle had been stolen and their lives were now threatened also. They were looking for somewhere safe to stay at night. Traditionally these people were enemies, of a different faith and from an ethnic background engaged in deadly clashes in our area. But they were our neighbours. So our team member asked if they wanted shelter and safety on our land, so they wouldn’t be raped and killed. Eventually they moved on to a different state and we offered support.
This is the teaching of Jesus. But today we are taught opposite to this. We are taught to stay away from those different to us. The result is that we have so many groups of people in the world who are estranged from each other. Neighbourhood is breaking down. Jesus said “love your neighbour”. He didn’t say “if they are from your own group.”
We are taught prejudice. We are to be prejudiced against those of other groups, especially those of poorer economic groups, refugees, those of other faiths. This runs through our whole society and history. This is one of the main issues Jesus dealt with. He went through Samaria, Israel’s enemy territory, and spoke on caring for others from enemy backgrounds.
But we largely try a different path to fixing our neighbourhoods. Our solution is often to be against the things that people do that are wrong. This is a “Torah” approach. We point out that things that people are doing that are against the Christian faith. This approach leads us to more prejudice. It denies that people are individuals like us and need the same kind of help we and our own people need.
For the Pharisees the biggest issue of the day was the sins other people commit. Stopping these was their way of fixing things. For Jesus the biggest issue was our love for God being expressed by our love for our neighbour. Jesus believed this was his kingdom coming and this would fix things.
God is calling us to change our attitudes and our way of life. Community needs to be healed. Isolation from people in their need has to stop. We must come back to our neighbour. This is the kingdom of God. The issue isn’t our own security and the economic welfare of our nation. It is the state of our neighbour. Taking heed of this is the only thing that will heal us. Break down the divisions between us and reach out and support our neighbours. We must repent from the worst of sins, turning away from people in suffering. Other people, from any race, faith or background, are our own flesh and blood.
It could be you and me in that photo with our two children.