Loving God in our neighbours

The other week I was forced to watch a film out of sheer boredom. My friend whom I was with at the time suggested we should watch Ben-Hur and my heart was filled with dread. All I could think about was hours spent as a child watching this ‘epic’ of a film, however my friend reassured me  that I would enjoy the film in its remade form.  I then realised I did not remember the film at all, so therefore agreed that it would be a good way to pass an hour or three.  I am sure your memories are far better than mine, but for those who have not seen the film in its new or old form here is a quick overview.

The film is about the love of two adopted brothers, one  a Jewish prince, the other a Roman  adopted into the Jewish family. Set in Jerusalem at the time of Roman occupation, it tells the stories of the two young men as they grow, their love, their hatred and finally their forgiveness of each other. The story is brought full circle back to their love for each other and their family. Jesus even has a cameo role within the story as his life crosses with the lives of the family.

Last week whilst rushing through town I saw something that made me stop and think, it was a young lady in her twenties bending down. She was bending down in a doorway of a closed shop giving a cup of coffee to a young homeless man taking shelter there. What made me think was that she had actually stopped and taken the time out of her busy life to talk to the man as a fellow human being.

Which is the greatest commandment of the law? You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. How do we do this? I know how to love my wife, my children, my family, I also know how to love you for we are brothers and sisters in Christ. I should imagine this is much the same for us all, but do we know how to love the Lord our God with all our hearts, all our souls and all our minds? Our families, our friends, our colleagues, they are physical, we can understand them, pull them to us or push them away, we know them. Can we say the same for the Lord our God, and if we do not, how can we love him at all?

When we see that young man in the door way what do we see, a drug addict, an alcoholic, a migrant, do we hurry off saying ‘I give my £10 each month to Shelter’? What do we see when see the young lady, a foolish child who is wasting both her time and money?

In the film Ben-Hur meets Jesus several times, in one part of the film he is being driven through the streets of Jerusalem as a criminal with a bar across his neck, as he falls the guards cry out that no one is to give him water, Jesus goes to him. Later the roles are reversed :as Jesus stumbles and falls on his way to Golgotha, Ben Hur gives him water. The guards do not hold back this time but strike both Ben Hur and Jesus, when Ben Hur goes to retaliate Jesus stops him, he sees the love Jesus has and that changes what he sees. Ben Hur follows Jesus to the cross, witnesses the crucifixion to the last, as all the other people leave he falls to his knees at the foot of the cross and cries.

What do we see when we see the homeless man in the doorway?  We should see our brother, our neighbour who is in need.What do we see when we see the young lady talking to him? We should see our sister our neighbour doing the work of Christ, loving her neighbour? Has our alms giving become distant and sterile, a cheque in the post, a direct debit? Giving comes with a cost and that is not always money. There is more love in a kind word and a smile than in a fiver; loneliness can be harder than the coldest winter, to give our time and ourselves has a greater value than any money we may give.  

Jesus should not have a cameo role in our lives, just bumping in to him when our paths cross, we should find ourselves on the road as he falls, kneeling at the foot of the cross. As Ben-Hur gave Jesus water and the lady gave the man coffee, they loved the neighbour. We can know God by following the example of his son; this is how we start, by loving our neighbour.

Only then can we carry out the greatest commandment, to love the Lord our God with all our hearts, with all our souls and with all our minds.