Article of the week: Who is my neighbour?
18 September 2021
Trevor Caffull considers what it means to love your neighbour
THE story of the good Samaritan (see Luke 10:25–37) is one of the best known in the Bible. It is not a true story, but a parable that Jesus told to illustrate his answer to a question he received from an expert in the Law. The man was trying to catch Jesus out on a definition of loving your neighbour. Jesus told the story to illustrate that we do not need to be the same race or creed, or even friends with somebody, to be their neighbour. Being a good neighbour means loving everyone – including our enemies.
The Salvation Army in this territory has just made a statement about its God-given identity, as outlined in the 4 September Salvationist. Who we are and what we do can be described in four words: ‘Love God, Love Others.’ These echo the Old Testament verses that Jesus quoted just before the parable of the good Samaritan: ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’ and ‘Love your neighbour as yourself’ (Luke 10:27).
Being a good neighbour is a tenet of The Salvation Army’s belief system – helping people in need, whoever they are. This came to the forefront of my mind recently as I heard and saw the news coverage of three tragedies in three different sets of circumstances in three parts of the world.
The conflict in Afghanistan, even to the most informed students of the politics of that region, is very worrying. The speed with which the Taliban gained control of the country was shocking, and the sudden emergence of fear was obvious from the pictures we saw on our televisions.
The Salvation Army does not operate in Afghanistan and, in any case, it would simply be too dangerous to have operations on the ground there. But it seems likely that there will be many thousands of people seeking refuge as they flee from their country – and The Salvation Army will be their neighbour.
Another world headline in the same week was the earthquake in Haiti, where upwards of 2,000 people are known to have died in the devastation. The Salvation Army in Haiti, part of the Caribbean Territory, responded and, in London, a project was put together at International Headquarters to provide initial funds for food, drinking water and hygiene items. The people of Haiti will have desperate needs, and The Salvation Army will be their neighbour.
Nearer to home was the dreadful mass shooting in Plymouth. Again, The Salvation Army was on hand to provide support. Major Stephen White, the divisional commander for Devon and Cornwall, said: ‘Our thoughts and prayers are with the people of Plymouth. Local Salvation Army officers are available for pastoral support at our partner church based at St Mark’s, Ford. They are also providing hot drinks, food and a friendly ear for the emergency services dealing with this difficult incident.’ Families and communities in Plymouth will still be mourning, and The Salvation Army will be their neighbour.
Three examples over the past few weeks of the troubled world in which we live – but also three examples of The Salvation Army’s response to that question: ‘Who is my neighbour?’
This is the organisation to which we belong and, while our personal efforts don’t directly deal with relief work in Haiti or Afghan refugees, our work connects us all with these situations indirectly. These are yet more examples, extensions maybe, of a response to William Booth’s famous telegram message that simply said: ‘Others.’
Who is my neighbour? We all have to find our own answer to that question. But I would suggest that a sensible and compassionate response might be ‘whoever needs my help’. There’s an old Army fundraising strapline: ‘Where there’s a need, there’s The Salvation Army.’ Thank God for that!
When I needed a neighbour,
Were you there, were you there?
When I needed a neighbour, were you there?
And the creed and the colour and the name won’t matter,
Were you there?