Wednesday, December 16, 2009

The Good Samaritan, Loving our Neighbour and the Environment

When Jesus commanded the disciples to love their neighbour, they asked him who their neighbour was. Jesus replied by telling the story of the Good Samaritan. I think the reason for the disciples question was to know where the limits were. They wanted clear boundaries about who they had to love and who they didn’t have to. How far did this neighbourly love has to extend?

But instead of having this idea of loving their neighbours limited in any way, Jesus extended it more than they would have imagined. Their neighbours did not just include the people they liked or the people they knew or people of the same tribe or same nation. It even included Samaritans.

Christians idea of neighbour must – and does – continue to expand. In this age of information and instant communication, we know so much more about people all over the world than we ever have before. We must pay attention to the problems that these people face, for they are also our neighbours. Indeed, many Christian organisations give aid to third world countries because they see those countries as our neighbours, who we are commanded to love.

It might seem as though our concept of neighbour has finally reached its limits. Now there it includes everybody in the world, there is nowhere left to go. Or is there?

If we continue to expand what we mean by loving our neighbour, then it should not be limited by people who are alive today. Not just our own neighbourhood, not just our own country, not just our own religion – not even just our own time. When we think of loving our neighbour, we should also include future generations, those that will come after us.

We must ensure that we do everything possible to help future generations and nothing that would cause them any harm. We must also recognise that our needs and wants (or our comfort and convenience) do not take precedence over their needs and wants. We are not more important than them. In fact, the Christian view should be to treat ourselves as less important.

This means ensuring that we pass on God’s gift to us (this earth) to them in a good condition. It means doing everything we can to protect their homes, food and livelihood. It means leaving them enough natural resources, instead of using them all up ourselves. And I also believe it means making sure that they too have the gift of nature, that they may look at the world that God has created and see how beautiful it is, that they may feel the spiritual uplifting that comes when we connect with what God has made.

I realise that there is some doubt about man-made climate warming. However, the doubters seem to be getting fewer as time goes on and more science comes to light. There is also serious doubt about whether the emissions trading scheme is a good way to tackle climate change. Maybe man-made climate change is a fallacy. That doesn’t let us off the hook.

Firstly, caring for the environment, in order to help future generations, is not just about reducing our carbon emissions. It’s about ensuring we do everything possible to minimise the negative impacts on others, both now and in the future, through the way we treat the earth today. It’s about not being greedy and taking all the natural resources we can, but leaving some for future generations. It’s about making sure that we leave natural places of beauty for our great-great-great-grandchildren to enjoy. It’s about recognising that the people in the future may need to live with what we do to the earth today.

And as Christians, we also have a duty to at least consider man-made climate warming. We can’t simply decide that the science is wrong and we don’t need to do anything about it.

I’m sure, if the Good Samaritan had asked around, he would have found a few so-called experts to tell him that the man lying by the side of the road was not really hurt. Maybe he was even pretending to be injured, to give him an opportunity to rob the Good Samaritan. But the Good Samaritan didn’t do this. He went and had a look to see for himself. Surely, we too, need to at least investigate the problem and see if anyone is likely to be harmed and whether anybody needs our help.

Note: After I had written and posted this blog entry, I saw an article about Pope Benedict XVI's message for World Peace Day on 1 January 2010. The article gives a really good message about why Christians could care about the environment. Here is one of the quotes from the article:

Pope Benedict said that because the environmental crisis is global, it must be met with a universal sense of responsibility and solidarity toward people living in other parts of the world as well as toward generations who have not yet been born.

You can find the whole article at Catholic News Service.

Image details: The Good Samaritan, Master of the Good Samaritan (active between 1500-1549, Northern Netherlands). Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons. Image is in the public domain.


  1. A timely post and wasn't it nice of the pope to share his insights when he did.

  2. Very considerate of him, wasn't it? I think I should send him a list of future blogs I have planned, in case he wants to comment on any more of them.



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