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A Bible study by Isabel Carter on caring for our neighbours.
The Good Samaritan is such a familiar and powerful story. Here is a modern day alternative to help us reconsider what these verses may be saying to us today:
A farmer called Lensah worked hard on her small farm in a remote part of Western Ethiopia, when she was badly affected by a terrible drought. After many months without rain, she had sold everything she owned to help her family survive – her animals and her possessions. One day she collapsed from lack of food by the side of the road.
A Christian development worker drove past in his Land Rover but had an important planning meeting to attend and couldn’t stop.
A Pastor drove past on his motorbike but had to reach the town in time to catch a bus to Addis Ababa.
A lady with HIV went past on a donkey cart (she was too weak to walk far) and saw Lensah lying there. She helped her up, placed her on the donkey cart and took her to a tea chop where she washed her and fed her tea and porridge. Then she took Lensah to a church where she knew a cash-for-work programme was in operation. She asked the people there to look after Lensah until she was strong enough to work with them.
Who do we identify most strongly with in this parable – the injured person, those who pass by or those who intervene at personal risk and cost?
Our lifestyles and the contribution we each make to global warming (in terms of our carbon emissions) have a real impact on other people. It’s easy to feel that our limited efforts to reduce our carbon emissions make no difference on a global scale. On average people living in the West produce 6 to 8 times more carbon emissions that people living in Africa or Asia. It may really help us to focus if we think of our impact in this way. The way we live will make a very direct difference to the lives of 6 to 8 other people in the world, living in Africa and Asia. Some of us may be able to put names to some of these 6 to 8 people if we support international work or have spent time working in other countries.
How can we better understand the needs of our unknown neighbours around the world who are suffering most from the impact of climate change?
Do we need to repent and change our way of life to show genuine love for our neighbours?
Given that we are generally the polluters in terms of climate change, how can we change from being passers by who ignore the situation to being people who bring hope and new life to others, our far distant neighbours?
Suffering and glory are often linked. Paul has no doubts about the future glory that awaits us, but these verses provide some interesting reflections.
In verse 18, what do we understand about the glory that will be revealed in us?
Do we believe the creation is waiting in eager expectation for major change? How do we see examples of this?
Verses 20 and 21 are not that easy to understand. Paul is saying that creation and humankind are so closely interlinked that humankind’s sin (brought about by free will) impacted on creation, and likewise the salvation of humankind (through god’s grace) will also bring about the salvation of creation.
The picture of the children of God liberating creation is wonderful but also rather confusing given the typical cycles of the natural world where death and decay play a key part. Do we see any evidence of where this may have taken place?
Thinking back to the story of the Good Samaritan and the impact of our lifestyles on our neighbours, what is our vision for the future of our world as children of God?