Message from Bishop Robert, 12 July 2022

Published: Tuesday July 12, 2022

Bishop RobertIn our Gospel reading last Sunday, we encountered a lawyer who puts to Jesus one of perhaps the most fundamental questions of human existence. “What,” he asked, “must I do to inherit eternal life?” (Luke 10:25)

This is a question that begins a dialogue. “What does the law say?” asked Jesus? The reply came straight back, quoting Leviticus and Deuteronomy (this lawyer knows his law). “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your strength and with all your mind;’ and, ‘Love your neighbour as yourself’.”

“You have answered correctly,” Jesus replied. “Do this and you will live.” “And who,” asked the lawyer, “is my neighbour?” In reply, Jesus tells the parable of the good Samaritan, one we know so well, of a traveller who makes the dangerous journey from Jerusalem to Jericho. It is no surprise to those listening that this lone traveller is attacked, robbed, beaten and left for dead. The priest and the Levite who pass by are also concerned with the things of the law; they must stay clean, so they pass by. It is the Samaritan, one who was held in contempt by Jesus’ audience, close but an outsider, however, who stops. He alone crosses over to the man, pours oil on his wounds, gives wine to dull the pain, picks him up, takes him to an inn, promises to return and saves his life.

“Which of these three was a neighbour?” asked Jesus. There can only be one reply. “The one who had mercy on him.” “Go,” said Jesus, “and do likewise.”

Perhaps the danger with this parable is that we are almost too familiar with it. It washes over us, and we don’t really notice but it says something deeply significant about the nature of law, leadership and God.

Following the tumultuous events in Parliament this week, Conservative members of Parliament begin the process of electing a new leader, after which the wider membership will make a choice from the final two. Already there is talk of policy, but underpinning this, not surprisingly, there is the fundamental question of values.

The parable of the good Samaritan begins with law and the keeping of it. The lawyer and Jesus know that this is of crucial importance; it binds our society together in mutual obligation, it belongs to us all. Then, in telling the story of the Priest and the Levite, two establishment, leadership figures, Jesus helps us reflect on the nature of the leadership we should exercise and expect. The law has purpose. Good law, to which we all adhere, seeks the common good. The Priest and the Levite thought only of themselves, of their position under the law and not of the nature and true demand of the law, and so, ironically, failed to keep it. The outsider was the one who knew compassion and exercised it with integrity for the common good. This is in the heart of the nature of God.

Most of us will have no say in the election of the man or woman who will be our next Prime Minister, though we will later play our part at the ballot box, but all of us, collectively, have wisdom to share in being clear in the leadership we expect and desire, the values we want to see lived out with integrity. This will be crucial in what are challenging times when decisions, some deeply difficult, will have to be made.

For me, the ultimate pattern of that leadership is, of course, in Jesus Christ, his life, death resurrection and his teaching, not least this ancient story that we know so well which has deep truth to teach us from which we can all learn once more.

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One thought on “Message from Bishop Robert, 12 July 2022

  1. This is such a moving story. One that should touch the hearts of all of us…..but what would we do? Have we every passed by on the other side? I know that I have – as a lone woman walking across a city, I know that I have accelerated past someone in an underpass whom I expect was needy. The episode stays with one.

    And, on another occasion as a lone woman driving a car on a deserted road what does one do when someone attempts to stop you? Were they needy? I shall never know.

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