‘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, ‘Love your neighbour as yourself.’
We are familiar with the parable of the Good Samaritan recorded in Luke 10:25-37. This was the answer Jesus gave to the expert in law who had asked, “And who is my neighbour?” when Jesus told him to “love your neighbour as yourself ”. “Loving God with all our heart and soul, and our neighbours as ourselves” was John Wesley’s lifelong quest, striving after holiness of heart and life – personal holiness and social holiness. He regarded believers’ works of piety and of mercy as important, and believed that such fruits are the distinguishing mark of a true believer.
In this passage in Luke, it is noted that we are told to “love our neighbours” and not simply to “love our fellowmen”. We may be able to love others in general and yet choose to ignore or avoid our neighbours. Unlike “the others”, we meet our close neighbours almost daily and for a length of time. Loving them can be a challenge, not unlike that presented to the law expert: how to follow the example of the Good Samaritan and be neighbourly to those who traditionally have been your enemies. This was the good work that Jesus wanted him to practice, and it also had much to do with inheriting eternal life.
Most of us consider very carefully when purchasing a property: the price, location, design, area, orientation and so on. Finally we purchase our ideal home and move in, only to find that we have difficult neighbours. Some are hard to befriend and choose to remain strangers, while others may become a source of harassment, inconvenience or even hostility. As it has often been said, “we can choose our home but not our neighbours”. Let us try to change our perspective. May the Lord help us to be good neighbours to others instead of expecting others to be good neighbors to us. If that does not work and we have no other way, then moving out may be the last resort. Yet, that will not be easy either.
For more than a month now, Singapore has been shrouded by haze due to forest fires and illegal fires started by plantation owners in the region. Our government has always adopted a good neighbour approach in our relations with neighbouring countries. Therefore, despite the PSI reading being in the “very unhealthy” range, we have responded positively with goodwill and patience and repeatedly offered our assistance in fighting the fires. Initially, these goodwill offers were declined*, and we were accused of being ungrateful. Even though our neighbours cause us such inconvenience almost annually, we do not have the option of moving away.
We are reminded of a Chinese idiom, “a relative afar is of less use than a close neighbour”, and this will be our expectation when we meet with trials and tribulations ourselves. Let us encourage each other to love God with all our heart and soul and our neighbours as ourselves, practising what Jesus told the expert in law, “Go and do likewise.”
*On 10 Oct 2015, Indonesia accepted the assistance of a few nations, including Singapore, to help put out the fires.
The Rev Dr Chong Chin Chung was re-elected President of the Chinese Annual Conference (CAC) in 2012 for the quadrennium. He has been a Methodist pastor for 31 years and has been a guest lecturer at Trinity Theological College since 1996.