Tag Archives: society

Neighbouring

photoWhen asked by one of the teachers of the day which of God’s commandments was the greatest, Jesus gave this answer which silenced them.

Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” (Matt 22:37-40)

Few today would argue that there are any better commandments than this. It emphasises a love for God with every fibre of our being, heart, mind and will, and a love for all those around us, even those we may disagree with, as Jesus’ parable of the Good Samaritan illustrates. Implicit in the two commandments is a love for oneself.

The question, “but who is my neighbour?” is a good one. If we are supposed to love our neighbours, who are they? In one sense everyone is our neighbour – people of different nationalities, creeds, ethnicities, religions, sexual orientations, and ages. This is true, but sometimes an answer like this is not practically useful to those wanting to live out a life of “loving their neighbours”. If we are to love everyone, where specifically do we start?

This is where Jay Pathak and Dave Runyon’s book, The Art of Neighbouring, can come in useful. Looking at American suburban society in particular (the book is not limited to this setting but is primarily written from this point of view), they saw that, in fact, people often don’t know those who live immediately around them. I think this is true in the UK too, especially in new-build developments which don’t have a lot of history or long-term residents. Their answer to “where do you start?” is to look at other residents of your area.

They begin by asking you to think of the people who live immediately around you. Can you picture them? Beyond that, what kind of relationship do you have with them? Do you know their names? What sort of person are they? What do they like doing or talking about? Do you know what their desires or concerns are? With this in mind, Runyon and Pathak saw the great potential for impacting community cohesion, security, and general welfare of society for the better, simply if Christians took this command seriously with their literal neighbours. The idea is not to set out with a mission to convert them, but simply to share something of God’s kingdom-goodness with the world by creating loving and peaceful communities. Think about it, how much of your town would be impacted if every member of your church made a commitment to get to know, befriend, and be involved in the lives of those who live around them? I also have no doubt that a side-effect of this will be to open up opportunities for people to find out about and discover faith. When people are confronted with God’s goodness, some will respond.

It is an easy read, with that one central point running through it, and full of suggestions of how to out the greatest commandments into practice, but as always, it will need some adjustment to the individual context. It is a simple premise which, if a number of churches in one city commit to, could have a big impact.

Why Forgiveness is important in society

From Walter Brueggemann in ‘The Prophetic Imagination’

If a society doesn’t have an apparatus for forgiveness then its members are fated to live forever with the consequences of any violation. Thus the refusal to forgive sin (or the management of the machinery of forgiveness) amounts to enormous social control. While the claim of Jesus [to forgive sin] may have been religiously staggering, its threat to the forms of accepted social control was even greater.

Leadership in postmodern society

networked relationships
networked relationships

From a talk by Jonny Baker. Image from smallritual.org. The underlying assumption is that top down hierarchical structures are on their way out, so leadership needs to reflect that change in society. This is about church leadership, but there’s no reasons why the principles may not work elsewhere.

  1. Environmentalist. Leaders are there to create the culture/DNA of the organisation through which things happen -set the core values. (e.g. a culture of participation, use of gifts etc)
  2. Catalyst. The leader is a peer, someone who is trusted, and inspiration. He/She is the person who lets go and gets other people moving – a catlyst to events. There is trust in the community
  3. Guardian of the Ethos. The one who looks after the DNA, values, and vision of the community, continually reminds the community of these in order to keep in on the right track.
  4. Faithful Improviser. (From NT Wright New Testament and the People of God) Our calling is to improvise faithfully in the gap between Christ’s first and second comings. He left very few rules, but some teaching and an ethos within which to experiment.