Who is my neighbour?

Through the news media and internet we receive amazing insights into events around the world. On-the-spot reports and photographs enable us to see the people and their situations closeup. Sometimes the newsreader gives a warning that some of the images may be distressing. This weekend I saw a photograph of Rohingya Muslims crossing the Naf river to escape from Myanmar into Bangladesh. About fifty desperate men, women and children were crowded on a raft made of plastic containers that looked as if it was almost sinking.

Other photographs showed Rohingya women and children with wounds and burns received when they were attacked by soldiers and their houses were set on fire. They had escaped, but husbands and brothers had been killed. It is estimated that there are 1 million Rohingya Muslims refugees in Bangladesh in need of food, shelter and medical care.

Recent media reports from Yemen also show a terrible humanitarian crisis. The conflict between Saudi Arabia and the Houthis rebels has caused massive shortages of food and water. It is estimated that 3.2 million people are at risk of famine and 150,000 malnourished children could die in the next month. In both Myanmar and Yemen the conflict is caused by people who hate their fellow human beings.

An expert in the law once asked Jesus, “Who is my neighbour?” Jesus answered the man by telling the parable of the Good Samaritan. There was a long standing bitter rift between Jews and Samaritans. They had nothing to do with each other. In the parable a Jewish man was attacked and robbed on a lonely road and was left half dead. Two Jewish religious leaders passed the man and did nothing to help him. Then a Samaritan saw the man and took pity on him. He bandaged his wounds, put him on his donkey and took him to an inn where he took care of him. The next day he left the man in the care of the innkeeper and promised to pay whatever it cost.

Then Jesus asked the expert in the law, “Which of these three do you think was a neighbour to the man who fell into the hands of the robbers?” He answered, “The one who had mercy on him.” Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.” God commands us all to “love our neighbour as we love ourselves.” God expects us to love all people, even those who may be our natural enemies, and to show that love in a practical way.

The Water of Life

Half of Britain is now in drought as we face the most severe water shortage since 1976. More than 35 million people are now living in drought-affected areas. Parts of the country are already drier than they were in the summer of 1976, when Britain experienced its worst drought for more than 100 years. Restrictions on the use of water have been imposed in many areas.

The water shortage presents us with a big challenge. Water is essential for life. We need it and so do our animals and crops. One of the reasons our earth abounds with life is because of the abundance of water. In the past we may have taken for granted the fact that we had a reliable supply of fresh drinking water, but now we have become aware how precious water is.

Jesus once met a woman at a well. She had come in the middle of the day with her water jar to draw water for her and her family and to carry it home. Many people in the world today still have to carry water to their homes. It is a tiring job which has to be done every day in order to sustain life. This woman spent most of the day doing the things necessary for her and her family to survive. Many times as she walked to and from the well she must have wondered what life was all about? How could she find meaning in her life amidst the drudgery of her everyday routine.

Many people today ask the same questions. Why am I here? What is the meaning of life? Our secular society tells us there is no ultimate meaning to life. We just have to make the best of it. I’m so glad that isn’t true. Jesus knew the woman’s life was hard and that she didn’t know deep inner fulfilment. He said to her, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” Taking up this theme, Horatius Bonar wrote, “I heard the voice of Jesus say, Behold I freely give the living water – thirsty one, stoop down and drink and live! I came to Jesus, and I drank of that live-giving stream; my thirst was quenched, my soul revived, and now I live in him.”

The Water of Life

Water is very precious and is vital to sustaining life. Our little planet is, as far as we know, unique in the universe because of the abundance of water. Yet the East of England is experiencing a serious drought. A record dry 18 months, with virtually no rain this winter, has left rivers and reservoirs at critically low levels. These are the worst shortages for more than 90 years.

Some countries in Africa are experiencing very severe drought so that people and animals are dying. Since July 2011, a severe drought, the worst in 60 years, has been affecting the entire East Africa region. More recently aid agencies have warned about serious problems, because of drought, in West Africa, including Mali, Chad and Burkina Faso. We pray that rain will come and people’s needs will be met.

In John, chapter 4, we read of Jesus talking to a woman by a well in Samaria. She had come, in the heat of midday, to draw water from the well. Fetching and carrying water was hard work then, as it is today for many women in the world. The woman had experienced many problems in her life, including several broken marriages, which had really hurt her. Jesus spoke to her in a kindly way, even though her first response to him was negative. He revealed a real love for her and addressed her deepest needs.

Jesus knew that the water from the well could only satisfy the physical needs of the woman and her family for short time but, using the image of water, spoke of the deep and lasting satisfaction which comes from knowing him. He told her that she had only to ask him and he would give her “living water”. He went on to say, “Whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”

All of us want to find deep and lasting satisfaction. We want to know why we were created and the meaning of life. The answer cannot be found in religion, but is found in knowing Jesus. Many people, from all nations, have responded to his love, demonstrated in his death on the cross for our sins. As they have come to him they have experienced a deep peace and joy, as the woman did that day, which satisfies their deepest longings.

The Water of Life

We have enjoyed a lovely summer with many sunny days. It is no surprise, therefore, that already hose pipe bans have been introduced in some parts of the country. Water is a valuable resource, essential for life, it must be conserved.

Jesus once met a woman by a well. He was on a long journey and was resting by the well. He was thirsty and she had come to draw water. Every day she went to that well to draw water and to carry it back to her home. Jesus asked her if she would give him some water to drink. She refused because she was a Samaritan woman and he was a Jewish man, and Jewish people normally had nothing to do with the Samaritans. In fact the woman’s need was greater than the need of Jesus for water. It is the same for us. We need God’s help rather than him needing our help.

Jesus spoke to the woman about her need and the weary routine of life, “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again.” Even the most necessary and pleasurable experiences of our lives don’t last. He also spoke about the sadness and pain she had known in her life. She had been married five times and was now living with a man. She had been rejected and divorced by a series of husbands. The hurt and pain of it all must have been overwhelming.

Although the woman had rejected his request Jesus made it very clear that he was willing to help her. He told her, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is speaking to you, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water.” She did not realise that she was speaking to God’s Son, just as many people today don’t recognise the uniqueness of Jesus. He is not just another religious teacher, but the Saviour of the world who meets our deepest needs.

We have only to ask him and he will give us new life. This new life brings deep inner satisfaction and peace in the midst of a troubled world. He told the woman, “those who drink of the water I give will never be thirsty again.” That day she came to know Jesus as her Saviour and her life was transformed. His promise still holds true, to all who ask him he gives the living water of new life and peace with God.