When we read news or comment originating from outside our usual political comfort zone, it soon becomes clear that supposedly intelligent people can come to entirely different conclusions about almost any subject.
A typical subject is how to create a just society. One side says that the state should intervene more and more to protect the needy and vulnerable, the another says it should do less, as people must take proper responsibility for their own lives. And the disagreement is often ugly, angry and insulting.
Probably a similar public debate was underway when Jesus, who was teaching on loving your neighbour, was asked by a lawyer “Who is my neighbour?”.
The sort of clever, tricky question that a lawyer likes to ask! But Jesus always avoided being trapped in politics-as-usual and, by telling a simple story, he bequeathed to us a radically new target for human relationships. You can read the the story he told here at Bible Gateway.
Taken in its original context, the power and point of this story undermines any sense of tribal or national pride, or the preservation of barriers between peoples and beliefs, and points to a deeper truth. Is this left-wing or right-wing thinking? Liberal or conservative? Neither exclusively, because Jesus is calling for compassion (here for the outsider) and moral responsibility – responsibilities which neither a government nor an individual, under God, may wriggle out of.
Jesus was a great destroyer of polarities: outsider/insider, foreigner/compatriot, rich/poor, powerful/weak, male/female. Keep those in mind as we read our preferred newspaper or twitter feed and we realise how deeply flawed are the foundations of our most noisy politicians and commentators.
Following the Jesus way may seem to be out of this mainstream and therefore irrelevant. But his way of doing things opens up far greater opportunities for transformed lives, families and communities. Far greater than those offered by the polarised voices who deal in contempt, ridicule and hate.
And the big point is that Jesus considers any of his followers to be attached to him like branches of a vine, provided with love, power and encouragement to bring nourishing fruit to a broken world. Not politics-as-usual – and worth a try in our view!