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And who is my neighbour?

Response to the murder of  George Floyd - 12th June 2020

Dear Friends,

We won’t have failed to notice the Black Lives Matter protests following the appalling murder of George Floyd, and there have been a variety of reactions to this. Many across the world are angry and filled with grief and sadness. Others perhaps feel a nagging sense of guilt or are perplexed or defensive over the issues being raised. How do you feel?

The voice of those whose experience is different to ours is being highlighted. As here in Pembury we happen to live in a predominantly white, middle-class environment most of us, if we’re honest, can get through life without really having to concern ourselves overly with racial injustice. Now we are being made to hear about it, and it can be uncomfortable and hard for us to get our heads round!

We live in a world of slogans, soundbites, 24/7 news and social media that can polarise and that often don’t do justice to complex, long standing issues.

At the risk of stating the obvious...I am not a woman, but that means it’s really important I listen to women in order to try and appreciate what it’s like to hit the glass ceiling in the workplace or be on the receiving end of sexist comments, for example. I am not disabled, so I need to hear the stories of those who face everyday challenges with things I unthinkingly take for granted. I am not poor or unemployed, hence I find it hard to appreciate what it’s like for those who are. I could go on...

Once we hear the stories of injustices or challenges others are facing, we become more equipped and empowered to help do something about it. While of course racism is only one of the many forms of prejudice and injustice in the world, I do believe this moment gives us a vital opportunity to listen, reflect, and consider how we might respond.

I am white, so I have to ‘get out of my own skin’ in order to understand the statistically proven and longstanding injustices that Black, Asian and  Ethnic Minority communities so often face in everyday life, the workplace, schools and yes, also in the Church.

On some issues the Bible can be difficult to interpret and we have to acknowledge different ways of looking at things. But one thing’s abundantly clear in the Bible: God is a God of justice and He absolutely hates injustice. In Old Testament books like Isaiah, Amos, Micah, Deuteronomy, Proverbs and even the Psalms, time and again this comes out as a major theme. Justice for the poor, needy, marginalised and oppressed is so clearly at the heart of God.

In Jesus’ story of the Good Samaritan, the priest and the Levite pass by, ignoring the plight of the man lying beaten by the roadside, left half dead by robbers. The one who stops and tends him is a Samaritan, someone whom the Jews actually hated (racism was a problem back then too). Jesus told this story in response to the self-justifying question, ‘And who is my neighbour?’

The greatest commandment is to love God and our neighbour. If we are tempted to ‘pass by’ at this time, make excuses or ignore the problem, we are missing the call and heart of God. So how is God calling me to love my neighbour today?

Revelation 7:9-10 says that the kingdom of heaven has a countless multitude from every nation, people and language all unified in worshipping God. That’s where we’re heading, and it’s what we’re to seek and pray for here on earth today.

May your Kingdom come Lord, Your will be done, on earth as in heaven.

God bless,