by Martyn Begbey, Reader/Lay Minister in BART

Summer parties, BBQ’s, alfresco dining in the garden, music playing. If you were living next door, may say ‘a little loud’. Oops didn’t invite the neighbours. Oh well it’s only a couple of times a year.

Next morning clearing up, a frosty look from over the fence, might even be on the offensive. Do you just sheepishly look the other way or smile and say ‘sorry about the noise’ or just ignore without a word?

Over 25 years ago we had new neighbours; a doctor and his family who had fled from Saddam Hussein’s persecution. He had brought his father in law, who asked ‘had you met the neighbours before buying the house.’ ‘No it’s not like that in England. It’s not the custom’, came the reply. ‘Well you know, back home, how important it is to meet and know your neighbour, they will be with you every day. It’s not the same as family who you see every now and then’. ‘I understand Dad; but no I haven’t met the neighbours’. It stopped the conversation.

The removal lorry backed into the car park we share between our houses. I was in the garden, looked up, smiled and offered a greeting ‘Hi you must be the family moving in.’ So started an hour’s conversation, which has developed into a deep lasting friendship. To us they are family.

Father-in-law exclaimed, ‘you told me you had not met the neighbours!’

It starts with a smile; as the World Cup hosts, Russia, have had its officials trained to smile in greeting to its international visitors

But the smile needs to be put into action  

Jesus is asked by a lawyer ‘what must I do to get eternal life?’ Jesus responds at the end of his answer ‘love your neighbour as yourself’. The lawyer, wishing to be clever, asks, ‘Who is my neighbour?’

Jesus’s response answers all those ‘well I don’t get on with my neighbour’ thoughts. He gives this reply in Luke 10: 25 to 37.

A man is robbed, half beaten to death left naked and dying, in the desert heat. A Jewish priest and a Levite both walk by and pass on the other side of the road. It’s a Samaritan, disliked by the Jews, who stops and provides assistance and care and pays for his restoration to good health. So Jesus asks the lawyer ‘Which one of these three do you think was a neighbour’. The one who showed mercy, came the answer.

And Jesus said to him, ‘then go and do likewise.’