I was joking recently that it feels like we are going through a modern plagues of Egypt. Over the past 18 months we have experienced horrific bushfires, a terrifying virus and now we have floodwaters coming onto people's doorsteps. Honestly, a part of my brain keeps saying "What's next"! I don't think that we, as Australians (or as Sydneysiders), have been so aware of the need to protect ourselves - and establish safety - so constantly. I mean our community has faced multiple situations where we could lose our home, belongings, loved ones or even our own lives. Our instincts are hardwired to take the necessary action to protect ourselves and our loved ones and in the current situation, it's understandable that those instincts would be kicking in. Considering this, it is not surprising that our mental health would be impacted as our bodies somehow cope with this constant fear and adrenaline. It's not surprising that our guard is up, that we may be struggling to connect and we struggling to open up.
In the sermon this week, Rob talked about who our "neighbour" is. He talked about the parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25 - 37) which is a confronting and challenging story about putting your own needs aside and caring for someone else. I personally found it really interesting to understand the reason's why the Priest and Levite did not care for the injured man - because contact with a dead body would make them unclean - and can identify with similar (admittedly with less dying bodies involved) situations where I have had clear reasons for the actions I have taken. And in our current world circumstances, it would be reasonable to not act as a Good Samaritan because we are understandably worried or focused on protecting ourselves.
And yet we know that it is as a community that we will not only survive but thrive. For all the horror stories we currently see in the news, we are also seeing stories of love, compassion and support. Of people ignoring that instinct and opening up, being vulnerable and loving others sacrificially.
As Christians, that is frankly our mandate.
He said also to the man who had invited him, “When you give a dinner or a banquet, do not invite your friends or your brothers or your relatives or rich neighbours, lest they also invite you in return and you be repaid. But when you give a feast, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind...” Luke 14: 12 - 14.
From a psychological perspective, this makes sense. We know social connection helps reduce levels of anxiety and stress. As a society, we need each other in order to survive. I may be great at some things, but I can't fix a car - I need a mechanic to do that. We need to care for our cattle and farmers in order to have food; otherwise we would all starve to death. And while these are all legitimate reasons for caring for others - for prioritising them - I don't think that is the reason God has asked us to do so. If it was about the practicality of it, then the Priest and Levite choosing not to touch a dying body would have been reasonable. And yet they weren't acting "Neighbourly".
Love your neighbour as yourself - Luke 10:27
This verse strikes me as the point. It's about treating others in the same manner as you would treat yourself. It is about dropping emotional shields and guards, opening up and seeing another human as a person first with thoughts, feelings and ideas and being ok with that. As human beings, we are three dimensional realities - but we often fail to recognise that others are also the same. And that limits connection, it limits openness and it limits friendship. Jesus didn't see Zacchaeus as simply a Tax Collector. Jesus saw, and accepted, Zacchaeus as a complex individual and wanted to get to know him. That took Jesus communicating curiosity and lowering his guard to be open, asking to join him for dinner.
That is what we are called to do. We are called to take the unknown step of accepting others - of being open, supportive and loving. Of welcoming them into our lives and into our houses. Of demonstrating the actions Jesus took for us, to them. And not just in a crisis (although definitely in a crisis); but in our day to day lives. It's about mentality - about being aware of our surroundings and taking the opportunities as they pass.
So, I wonder. What is holding you back from that mentality? What is stopping you from accepting your neighbours? What is keeping your guard up? And what are you going to do to change that?
- Written by Ashleigh Crosilla