We are all called to “Go and do likewise”

Our obligation to love our neighbour isn’t confined just to those we know, or those who are the same as we are, or those who share our beliefs. Jesus set no boundaries on who to show love and compassion to.

Jul 24, 2021

Editor’s Column, Sustained by Grace

I was rather upset after reading an article with the glaring headline ‘Sabah will not help undocumented migrants raising white flags …’. The article went on to quote the state’s COVID-19 spokesman as describing those in need as seven women aged around 50 with six to nine children – including one-year-old infants – in each household. It appeared that the women had lost their food sources as their husbands were unable to return due to the district-crossing restrictions. The spokesperson went on to say that the state government would only provide assistance to Malaysians, adding that the government did not have any objections to NGOs and members of the public who wanted to give assistance to illegal immigrants.

I found it rather appalling that, despite knowing that these women and children could be starving, the authorities chose to turn the other way and ignore their suffering. Instead, they expected NGOs and ordinary people like you and me to assume the responsibility. I fully agree that the government should first and foremost have the welfare of the rakyat at heart. However, in extenuating circumstances such as these, surely a more humanitarian and compassionate stand could have been taken. Or did the plight of the innocent women and children not prick the conscience of the powers that be?

This reminded me of the Parable of the Good Samaritan. Over the years, I have played most of the characters, not only in my mind but also in real life, and I’m sure some of you have too. We might have played the role of the lawyer, trying to get Jesus to explain the secrets of life to us. We might have, at one time or another, played the role of the priest or the Levite, when we saw a broken-down car on the roadside, with its occupants standing around looking desperately for help, but we passed by, not because we are bad people, but because the rules of our society tell us that only fools would consider stopping on the side of the road to help strangers. After all, it might have been a trap – surely they could have called a mechanic or a family member or friend to come to their aid?

We may have wanted to be good Samaritans, but there are just too many white flags, too many requests for food aid, too many street people, too many requests for money, too many people sleeping out in the cold, and too many vacant faces staring up at us. It is so difficult to know who or where or how to help. So, we strike up uneasy compromises to salve our consciences. We fling those in need a few spare coins, as if a few coins could really help, then guiltily hurry away for fear that, from that vacant face, we might see something that demands more of us.

Because when we speak of others, we usually distinguish between “Us” and “Them.” We say “our people” and “foreigners and migrants”. If the other person is “one of us” - my friend, my compatriot, then we will extend whatever help they need. But if they are from another race, another country or another religion, we avoid them. We do this even when we see the desperation in their outstretched hands.

“To whom should I become a neighbour?” Through this parable, Jesus made it clear – our neighbour is anyone in need, regardless of their race, religion or standing in the community. Jesus’ message is that there are no boundaries when it comes to showing love and compassion. Compassion goes way beyond the requirements of the law.

Thankfully, unlike the state authorities (and the priest or Levite), there are many individuals who like the Good Samaritan see others for what they are – another human person, someone in need.

Our obligation to love our neighbour isn’t confined just to those we know, or those who are the same as we are, or those who share our beliefs. Jesus set no boundaries on who to show love and compassion to. Instead, He set the bar for love and compassion high, and His closing words to you and me today are “Go, and do likewise.”

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