In the gospel of Luke, a lawyer asks Jesus: “What must I do to inherit eternal life?” Jesus turns the question back, “What do you say?” The lawyer says, “Love the Lord with all your heart and love your neighbour as yourself.” Jesus responded “you have given the right answer.” But the lawyer is not satisfied. He presses Jesus further, “And who is my neighbour?” I think his intent here is actually to say, “There are some who are not my neighbours… I don’t have to love, I don’t have to be hospitable, toward people who don’t deserve it, right?”
So Jesus tells a story that shows just how challenging this call to love the neighbour is. He talks about a traveller beaten bloody, robbed, and left to die on the roadside. A priest, and another religious leader, see the beaten man and pass by on the opposite side of the road. But then a Samaritan stops and offers assistance. He takes the beaten man to an inn and pays for his room and care. This is radical on an obvious level; the neighbour is the one who helps a person in need, even when it is costly, even when it is risky.
But there is another level. The Samaritan was part of a people that Jesus and his hearers, would have seen as their enemy, their hostility went back hundreds of years. Obviously, the Samaritan’s acts of mercy and hospitality were impressive. But could the lawyer bring himself to commend his people’s sworn enemy? To his credit he does. The true neighbour is ‘the one who showed mercy’.
So, how does Jesus challenge us the most? Here in this story, he challenges us on three levels.
First, the heart of our quest for connecting with God, is love. It is not obeying rules or enforcing rigorous membership requirements. Love God and love neighbour.
The second level: Put this love into practice. The story models what neighbour love is; it is risky, it is costly, it is practical. It reaches out to the one who needs it, it offers genuine help.
And then, the third level: we are called to love those we don’t necessarily want to love. Maybe Jesus challenges us the very most by challenging us to imagine who the Samaritans are in our lives. Who are the people we think of as ‘other’, as different, as in some sense outside our circle of fellow human beings? That is precisely where the call to love truly matters.
The notion of diversity and inclusion encompasses acceptance and respect. It means understanding that each individual is unique, and recognising our individual differences. These differences can be along the dimensions of race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, socio-economic status, age, physical abilities, religious beliefs, political beliefs, or other commitments. It is the exploration of these differences in a safe and positive environment that we seek to encourage at Baptistcare. We aim at understanding each other and moving beyond simple tolerance to embracing and celebrating the rich dimensions of diversity contained within each individual. Diversity is a relationship of mutuality, an open space where persons contribute simply because they care about the mission of Baptistcare to the people and communities we serve. Diversity means resisting the homogenising of racial, ethnic, cultural, sexuality and class differences into uniformity. Honouring diversity reflects the multiple conflicts and commitments that emerge as faith-based organisations bound by time and place seek to witness and be faithful to the teachings and life of Jesus.