We live in an age where apathy, or even disdain, dominates many of our interactions as individuals and a society. We do not care about how those we do not know live or feel. This can be seen in the increasingly nationalist movements around the world, and how some people such as asylum seekers are treated so poorly, just because they are not like us.
However, Jesus had a radical take on how we should treat each other. In response to the question of which is the greatest commandment Jesus replied:
Matthew chapter 22 verses 37-40
..."'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.'This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: 'Love your neighbour as yourself. 'All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments."
According to these words, in Christian life there is no room for apathy with God or with our neighbours. And when it comes to our neighbours, we should love them as much as we love ourselves. Not treating others well, or ignoring their suffering is a violation of the second greatest commandment of the Bible.
Civic duty is a Christian duty
The lack of civic involvement in society is something that speaks to the times we live in, and the attitudes that we have to our neighbours. It is clear that at the heart of good Christian teaching and living is civic duty – the expression of care for our neighbours who are our community at large.
When we decline to vote, do not participate in community events, and do not speak against injustice we show a lack of care about our neighbours. Civic involvement is expressing our love to our neighbours.
However, the idea of neighbour is not so limited as to only include that with which we identify. In discussion with an expert of the law Jesus clarified who a neighbour is, and how they should behave.
Everyone you meet is your neighbour
Jesus makes it very clear: anyone could be your neighbour. In Luke chapter 10 verses 29-37 Jesus gives us the parable of the Good Samaritan. Summarised briefly, Jesus speaks of a man who was robbed, beaten and left at the side of the road. Two travellers walked by and ignored him, even though they were Jews like himself.
However a Samaritan (these were a group of people disliked by the Jews) came by and saved the man, provided him with care and money and asked nothing in return. Jesus then states that the Samaritan acted as a neighbour, and that is how we should behave.
What does this mean practically? That everyone is your neighbour – and that you should love everyone you meet. This is no small task. Loving your neighbour as yourself is a truly sacrificial kind of love. It is the kind of love that makes people lay down their lives for others, and make sacrifices that they could only dream that others would do for themselves.
However, this is the kind of transformative love that Jesus has for us. We cannot identify truly with Jesus, he is holy beyond our means. His unconditional love saves us. When we demonstrate our love for others in the way the Samaritan did, we cannot help but transform others.
Our civic duty is not limited to our community, but it extends to the community of God, and God's children. Regardless of who anyone is, we should love them and respect them like Christ loves us.
Nathanael Yates is a Neuroscience Researcher from Perth, Western Australia. He is constantly inspired by his astonishingly wise and beautiful wife and his adorable daughter.
Nathanael Yates' previous articles may be viewed at www.pressserviceinternational.org/nathanael-yates.html