Love your neighbour as yourself

When Jesus was being tested by what my grandmother would have called a “Philadelphia Lawyer” the following is recorded in Luke’s Gospel, Chapter 10:

25 On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?” 26 “What is written in the Law?” he replied. “How do you read it?” 27 He answered: ” ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ ” 28 “You have answered correctly,” Jesus replied. “Do this and you will live.” 29 But he wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” 30 In reply Jesus said: “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he fell into the hands of robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead. 31 A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. 32 So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. 33 But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. 34 He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, took him to an inn and took care of him. 35 The next day he took out two silver coins and gave them to the innkeeper. ‘Look after him,’ he said, ‘and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.’ 36 “Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?” 37 The expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him.” Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.”

Around 2,000 years later the Chelmsford Weekly News reported on a lawsuit being launched against an Anglican parish church by someone who self-identifies as a practising Christian thus;

While I do not wish to examine the rights and wrongs of same sex marriage at this point, it is important to note that the Church of England has a statutory exemption from performing same-sex marriage ceremonies.

I will assert that the church, its parochial church council and its vicar are all neighbours of Mr. Drewitt-Barlow. I would therefore ask if he is following Jesus’ command when he started his lawsuit. Paul, writing to the church at Corinth had some fairly harsh words to say to those who were taking other believers to court.

I am aware that there is a difference between hurt and harm. As Dr. Henry Cloud makes clear, the sugary drink does not hurt you but it does harm you, whereas the dentist, when filling the cavities caused by the sugary drinks, hurts but does not harm.

What is the hurt and what is the harm in this situation? Certainly Mr. Drewitt-Barlow is hurt that he cannot have the sort of ceremony he wanted to have with his partner in his local parish church. No doubt, so is his partner.

Taking this matter to a civil, as opposed to an ecclesiastical, court will cause harm, because it will highlight divisions within the church and the congregation and almost certainly will cause lasting harm to the unity and the witness of the congregation in their village. There is also a matter of acting contrary to Scripture. By so doing, the plaintiff is clearly stating that he does not accept the authority of Scripture to have the final word about the way in which we conduct ourselves.

There are some matters that ought to be taken to civil courts whether they happen under the auspices of a church or not; like embezzlement of church funds or abuse of vulnerable people whether children or adults, but this is clearly about internal church government. I know that Scripture does not matter to many of the members of the House of Commons, but if one considers oneself to be a practicing Christian, then it ought to be more that a lucky charm you carry with you to church on a Sunday.

About UK Fred

A Christian who cares that the church in Britain conforms to societal demands, rather than transforms society. I am particularly concerned with the lack of support for marriage and the acceptance of divorce in the church. I also care that the body politic in Britain seems to be corrupt and in need of a good shake-up.
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2 Responses to Love your neighbour as yourself

  1. Availeth says:

    Well… I don’t wish to comment on the homosexuality issue either, but I do think the only part of your post that makes all points completely valid is the detail of civil versus ecclesiastic. It IS an internal church issue. If you had not pointed that out (the civil court thing with unbelievers and damage to the reputation of the church bodies by highlighting divisions), then I would have brought up, just for sake of argument (I guess I’m bringing it up anyway, lol), that passage in Acts where Paul confronted Peter (over sitting only with Jews and with spurning Gentiles in the assemblies). You’ll recall he stood up in front of everyone and called Peter out. Eeep, I kind of felt sorry for Peter even while I could agree with Paul’s point. When I first read that long time ago I wondered why he handled it that way, and it didn’t seem right to me. I thought, especially in view of Matthew 18 (I think it is), why didn’t he go to Peter privately first? Why embarrass him in front of a whole crowd? But it says something about “…and others were following suit” (I mean, “doing the same thing as a result of Peter”). Paul felt he had to confront him publicly because the error was being acted out publicly, and because the issue and any change had to be made known to everyone at large. That’s exactly how this man might be thinking. He wants everyone to see and think about it. If it weren’t for your point about the incorrectness of the man’s CIVIL court context, I can see why he would take the church to court (an ecclesiastical court). Even if he lost, he would have made his point known more broadly to the higher-up body and not just his parrish, with which, he even said, he didn’t have a bone to pick…. but that he was “launch[ing] a challenge” … campaigning … and that “their hands were tied”. However, in light of his choice of secular court, he seems not to be truly seeking the Church, but desires “to justify himself”.

    • UK Fred says:

      Hi Availeth

      It is good to hear from you again. As someone who has been in a position akin to Peter’s in your example, I can see why you can have mixed feelings. I know that i felt that I was being embarrassed, but afterwards, I could see that my “Nathan” was being good for me in the long run. It’s back to the difference between hurt and harm. None of us like to be hurt, but sometimes the only way to stop us doing ourselves harm is to hurt us in the short term.

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