Youth Day is near, and we want to offer one challenge to you – how do you become a good neighbour in South Africa despite differences and past adversities?
After the massive political campaigns that came with it being voting year, the wounds of our country were once again exposed to those paying attention. I sat back and watched as people attacked one another, rallied against their neighbours and turned a blind eye as injustice was being handed out all round. It wasn’t all bad, but the simple truth is… We often don’t know how to treat our neighbours who are different to us with love and respect.
With Youth Day around the corner, it’s important for us to take a moment and reflect back on not just the state of our hearts, but also the state of our communities. This is a necessity because, ultimately, at the core of Youth Day, young South African’s were all fighting for one unifying mission all those years ago – freedom as a population/community from the oppression and persecution of the Apartheid government.
We have come a long way since the abolishment of Apartheid in 1994. Yet, somehow, we’re still stuck in the past. We still find ourselves inheriting the ideologies and outlooks of those who grew up amidst the burden of Apartheid. In light of this I’d like to propose that we take a step back, zoom out and take a look at our communities and ask how do we become good neighbours to those around us?
The race card
We’re all too familiar with the race argument. Racial issues run deep in South Africa and the brokenness and fruits thereof are still rife in our country. Instead of getting in too deep with the discourse of institutional racism, there’s one truth we, as Christian’s, should be focussing on amidst all of this:
So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them. – Genesis 1:27For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. – Ephesians 2:10
Essentially, despite race, we are all created in God’s image. All humans have dignity because we’re made in the image of God. To further this, all humans despite race are 99.9% the same genetically. The colour of our skin is essentially less than 0.1% of our genetic makeup and it’s merely a survival mechanism to either survive the harshness of sunlight, or absorb more Vitamin D.
On to community
Now that we’ve settled that, let’s get on to being good neighbours to those in our community. What does it look like to be good to strangers? To get along with people we may have nothing in common with? To be kind to those who we disagree with or whose lifestyles offend us?
Jesus replied: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.” This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: “Love your neighbour as yourself.” – Matthew 22:37-39
Easier said than done, I know. So what does it look like to be a good neighbour to those who you struggle to love?
Simply put, it looks like Jesus. Jesus came to Earth and modelled what it looks like to live as a human in a sinful world. He became like man, so that he may show us how to live. Jesus invited a tax collector to join him (Luke 19:2-20) and instead of persecuting a prostitute, he forgave her (John 8:1-11). Once we love God, truly understand and accept the truth of the identity he placed in us through Him; then we can start loving our neighbours for the same identity God placed in them. When we recognise God in them, how can we turn away and not treat them with dignity and love?
The parable of the Good Samaritan
Luke 10:25-37 describes perfectly how to be a good neighbour. In verse 29 an expert in the law ask Jesus who his neighbour is. Jesus aptly tells the story of the Good Samaritan. This parable displays that it is not just those who look, talk and act like us who are our neighbours. It’s also those who do not look, talk and act like us. It is also those who we would not give a second thought to.
The conclusion of the story? “Go and do likewise” (verse 37). In other words, your neighbour is everyone and everyone deserves just treatment.
Mahlatse Mashua, Regional Director at Ravi Zacharias International Ministries Africa, said that if you’re struggling to love people, you’re struggling to love God. Your attitude towards people reflects and mirrors your internal discourse and attitude. To overcome this, you need to find God in people. And then ask yourself, who are you in the Good Samaritan parable?
Our challenge to you
Our country has had a rough history, one we’re still struggling to recover from. But we’re not defeated. We have the strength of our Saviour coursing through our veins. We may think that one person can’t make that much of a difference. But if you make a difference in one person’s life, that is one person’s whole world that you added some kindness and love to.
Whether it’s as simple as smiling at a stranger the next time you’re mulling about your neighbourhood, or if it’s going out and finding ways to help those living around you – being good to your neighbour means loving them. You don’t need to invite each person you meet into your lives long-term, but you never know the affect one small act of kindness has on someone.
The way we live sets an example to those around us – our children, our friends, our neighbours, and strangers who look upon us from afar. Are actions and the way we’re living is a lot more impactful than what we say.
My challenge to you is this… How are you going to be the light that shines amidst the darkness and set the tone for those around you?