Neighbours, Everybody Needs Good Neighbours | Connecting with Culture
It’s been a good season for this Northern Irish/Irish/British sports fan. My neighbouring identities have been beautifully threaded together.
For two Sundays in a row, Irishmen lifted trophies to the cheers of mostly British crowds in front of a global TV audience. It’s said that the USA and the UK have a ‘special relationship’, but is it possible that recent sporting exploits have revealed an even more special relationship – in fact, a kinship – within these countries we call the British Isles? We are quite literally neighbours after all.
Luke 10 tells the famous parable of the Good Samaritan. In these politically febrile and tribal times, have we ever been more in need of Jesus’ reminder of who our neighbours are?
Last week, I travelled through the small town of Belcoo. Its townsfolk were walking and jogging back and forth across the bridge over the Belcoo river. Except they were doing much more than that. They were moving back and forth between the United Kingdom and the Republic of Ireland. I was struck by the reality that, for these people, Brexit is so much more than a hot topic for discussion on talk radio.
The people of Blacklion (on the Southern side) and Belcoo are good neighbours, and want that to continue. That’s just one of the reasons that, whatever your take on Brexit, the arrival onto the scene of two new party leaders in the shape of Jo Swinson and Boris Johnson is significant. But in this time of social media-mediated tribalism, will we be able to hear them with grace and discernment? Will the story of the Good Samaritan challenge us to meet, listen, think, and act beyond the confines of those who are ‘just like us’? Might we be as surprised as Jesus’ listeners by tales of a Good Tory, or a Good European Commissioner?
As Christians, we have a unique gift to bring to the public square at this moment. We know a way to the humility required to be a neighbour beyond our tribal allegiances. We know how we might just start to believe that we don’t have all the answers– it’s from being in the presence of the one who does.
Being on our knees as neighbours in prayer won’t just change the Brexit gridlock. It will change us. And that might give us the opportunity to be the peacemakers and bridge-builders needed to prevent a country tearing itself apart.
Andy is Executive Director of Christians in Politics, a singer-songwriter and general rouser of rabble. His book, Those Who Show Up, was published in 2015.