“Who is my neighbour?”
Thursday, 4 February 2021
It’s one thing to say we must love our neighbour, but quite another to do it. Human beings are very good at delineating boundaries of inclusion and exclusion. In South Africa, apartheid taught us to be aware of the visual cues of race and tribe so that we knew who our neighbour was. In their eyes, it was obvious that our neighbour is someone who looks like us, believes like us and acts like us. Some magistrates used the pencil test to help determine if an individual was white or coloured. If a pencil inserted into the hair slid out, the straightness of the hair indicated whiteness.
While we thank God that such days are behind us, we should not be too satisfied with our own righteousness. We listen for accents and quickly pick out the Nigerian, or the francophone. The darker skins of Africans from the equatorial regions are easily and quickly discerned. Laws against discrimination may have changed, but our human hearts have not. Recent attacks on migrants in Durban are proof of that.
Jesus told the parable of the Good Samaritan to show people that what really matters are our actions, not our religious beliefs, not the tribe we belong to, not our race. The outcast, heretic Samaritan, the man who was ritually impure, showed greater love than the priests and lawmakers of the Jewish establishment in the time of Jesus. He was the true neighbour, based on his actions.
When our values are rooted in the life and teaching of Jesus, the world becomes our neighbourhood, the one different to us our neighbour. Then peace and justice will reign.