Ad Clerum on Who Is My Neighbor from Bishop Martyn Minns

Ad Clerum on Who Is My Neighbor from Bishop Martyn Minns

And behold, a lawyer stood up to put him to the test, saying, “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?”He said to him, “What is written in the Law? How do you read it?” And he answered, “You shall 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 your neighbor as yourself.” And he said to him, “You have answered correctly; do this, and you will live.” But he, desiring to justify himself, said to Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” (Luke 10:25-29)

Ralph Carlisle (1910–1986, my father-in-law) was a godly man of action, and there was nothing that he could not do nor fix. During the Second World War he served in the Corps of Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers (REME) – sometimes called the British Army’s Professional Engineers – and he could fix vehicles, build bridges, and everything in between. He was deployed in places such as Indonesia, India, and Europe. Sometime after the war ended, he was riding his bicycle back from choir practice at his parish church. He saw a man attacking a woman and stopped to help. He broke up the fight but then discovered that they were a husband and wife who did not appreciate his interference. Both of them turned on him and started to attack him. After a few words, Ralph resumed his ride home. “Who is my neighbor?”

In October last year, for more than 40 minutes, a woman was harassed by a stranger on a public transit train in Philadelphia and then raped while bystanders held up their cellphones, seemingly to record the assault, police said. The incident led to the police urging the public "to be our partners and to watch out for other riders," to physically intervene or to call 911. “Who is my neighbor?”

In recent days we have all watched with horror as men, women, and children have been brutalized, and many killed, as Russia has continued its barbaric invasion of Ukraine. It is hard to believe that we are witnessing one European country systematically destroying another while the world stands by, seemingly helpless. While we have all been amazed by the courage of these innocent civilians and the inspirational leadership of their president, Volodymyr Zelenskyy, agonizing questions haunt us all. What can we do? What should we do? Who is our neighbor?

Recall that Jesus answered his own question by telling the story of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37). In his day, that title would be considered an oxymoron, since Jews hated Samaritans. But this classic, memorable parable is still relevant today. In addition to the Samaritan and the man who was robbed and beaten, there were two other participants in this drama. A priest going down the road passed by on the other side. It is likely that he was on his way to the Temple and would be very concerned about blood or a dead body or anything that might lead to uncleanness. The Levite would have been expected to know of the Levitical obligations towards the neighbor, and yet he, too, crossed by on the other side. It was left to the despised Samaritan to show the compassion that was expected of the Jewish leaders. But he went the extra mile by paying the innkeeper for the man’s care with a promise to pay whatever else was owed. I have always appreciated the final word from Jesus: “Go and do likewise!”

As we reflect on the unfolding nightmare in Ukraine, the question with which many are wrestling is, “How should we respond to those neighbors who are being assaulted day and night?” The various governments and non-governmental authorities have their own responsibilities, but what of us? It is not feasible for us to go and bind up their wounds and take them to a safe place of healing – but there is still a great deal that we can do:

1. PRAY – In times of our own feelings of helplessness and inadequacy we have been given the gift of intercessory prayer, knowing that our heavenly Father not only hears our prayers but will answer them. So pray – personally and corporately. For those of you with children in the home, I encourage you to pray with them but also avoid traumatizing them with too many graphic images that the news media display around the clock.

2. STUDY – If you have not read through it recently, I do commend a careful study of the Old Testament prophet Habakkuk. He asks many of the questions with we struggle in times such as these. Other helpful books give some of the background to the conflict – the following were recommended by the Boston Globe: a. The Conflict in Ukraine: What Everyone Needs to Know, by Serhy Yekelchyk b. The Frontline: Essays on Ukraine’s Past and Present, by Serhii Plokhy c. In Isolation: Dispatches From Occupied Donbas, by Stanislav Aseyev

3. GIVE – Various relief agencies are providing opportunities for giving aid. Archbishop Foley Beach has just announced that the Anglican Relief and Development Fund (ARDF) has mounted a campaign to raise funds to help. They are currently partnering with those inside Ukraine and those working in bordering countries that are overwhelmed with refugees. ARDF has received a $100,000 challenge gift to match dollar-for-dollar the first $100,000 received. This means your personal gift can be doubled.

4. REMEMBER – If you who have an opportunity to meet with Ukrainians, do so. Let them know that they are not forgotten and that you are praying for them and for their families and friends in the Ukraine. I trust that you will also remember this conflict in years to come, when the urgency of this hour has passed but the suffering of those whose lives have been destroyed continues on.

Who is my neighbor? Those in need, both near and far.

In the love of Christ,