More than meets the eye...
"You shall not give false testimony against your neighbour." Exodus 20.16
Interesting that deliberately misrepresenting another person should have been such a concern back then as to have made it into the most influential and ancient moral code. It just goes to show the enduring and deep nature of our inclination to sinfulness. Why would a person want to diminish someone they live close to? It makes no sense until we start thinking of our own neighbours - and then it makes perfect sense; we're all at it!
"But who is my neighbour?" the law expert famously asks Jesus, who then launches into his parable about a Good Samaritan (Luke 10. 25-37). Jesus' point is that, on the one hand, our neighbour is anyone we encounter whom we are in a position to help and, on the other, a neighbour is the person who behaves in a neighbourly way, no matter where they come from. So, in the parable, the Samaritan recognises the injured man as his neighbour, even though he does not know him personally and he is of a different race. And then he goes on to prove himself worthy of being called the man's neighbour by acting in a neighbourly way (binding his wounds and securing shelter for him), in sharp contrast to the more likely candidates who were fellow Jews yet pass by on the other side.
It is one thing to misrepresent those we are acquainted with, especially if we consider them "the neighbours from hell". But are we sufficiently careful in what we say about the neighbours we don't (yet) know? Are we ever apt to dismiss those without jobs as "work-shy", or refugees as "someone else's problem"?
Why not (re)read the Parable of the Good Samaritan today and reflect on your understanding of "neighbourliness" and how it should be applied?