Love your neighbour as yourself – or love other people as you love yourself. This is the lifelong task of those who are Christians. It is rarely an easy task, and it is a task that requires imagination because it means that we have to be able to imagine what it is like being that person to whom we direct our love and therefore to know what their needs are.
So we might apply ourselves to what it might feel like to be, for example, a poor American stranded by a fire on the West Coast, or a member of an even poorer family in Niger wondering how to survive a famine – the sense of their despair comes through strongly. How might it feel to be the parent or child or friend of someone killed in a terrorist bomb attack or in a war zone? How might it feel to be a refugee in this country fleeing violence? It is really important that we try to put ourselves in other peoples’ shoes – if we fail to do this we get it wrong very easily.
Sometimes loving other people is costly and many perhaps prefer not to pay the cost or not to get involved. I still remember a story in the paper many years ago about a woman who went to the help of someone who had been stabbed on a bus. She asked a man for his coat to rest the victim’s head on but the man said ‘No, it will ruin it’ and walked off. In fact she was the only person on a full bus who was prepared to help this person in need. I didn’t know if she was a Christian, but I sincerely hoped that none of the ones who walked away would have claimed to be Christians. Their thoughts should have been ‘In that situation I would like people to help me’ or ‘Love your neighbour’ not ‘steer clear or you’ll have to have your coat dry cleaned’.
This way of love, concern and learning to see the world through other people’s eyes, is the way of life to which God calls us. May God give us courage and dedication for such a life in his name.
Rev’d Dr. Anne Morris
Vicar St. Oswald’s, Knuzden, Blackburn