I had a colleague many years ago who I remember teaching the children of our Sunday School to sing ‘God first, me last, and everyone else in between’. It was a sentiment with which I was and remain deeply uncomfortable, not least because it is profoundly at odds with the teaching of Jesus who in Matthew 22 says:
‘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 neighbour as yourself. ’All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”
By contrast to the Sunday School verse, Jesus teaching addressed the complexity of decision making that lies before us as a nation and as a world as we emerge slowly, hesitatingly, from the pandemic and seed to address the twin challenges of tackling global health and global poverty.
Jesus begins with God, creator of the world and all that inhabits it, including each one of us. This is a world and its peoples who are precious to God for which we are to care and in which we are to seek the wellbeing of all. He then asks us to consider together the needs of our neighbour and our own need, and of course he had some very pertinent things to say about who our neighbours are – Jesus was not afraid of crossing boundaries between communities and nations. Jesus is clear that our needs and the needs of our neighbours are not separate issues, but are deeply connected needing to be addressed together.
It is absolutely right therefore that governments and health services around the world work to protect the citizens of their particular nations. This is a God given responsibility. But Jesus is clear that this cannot be done in isolation. As we care for our own citizens, so we need to look to the good of others. Jesus knows the truth of the now well quoted saying ‘no one is safe until we are all safe’. For those who are blessed with more, as we are in this country, comes therefore greater responsibility. If we are to keep ‘the law and the prophets’, we have to take to heart the command of Jesus to ‘love our neighbours as ourselves’.
This week we pray for the leaders of the world’s largest economies who will be gathering and pray that they will have a wider vision of God’s world beyond national boundaries and a thirst for the common good in which each and every human being of whatever race or creed or nationality is know as precious to God and therefore to us. We pray that such a vision will lead to action for the most vulnerable and for a world in which we can all live life in all its fullness.
May we also pray for the courage that our voice will be heard as we seek justice and that our deeds, however small, may also reflect that justice for which we pray.