Katherine Rainger celebrates the transformative ministry and theology of Aunty Rev Denise Champion, the first Aboriginal women ordained in South Australia.
I must confess that I’ve found the past 7 days of the ‘Love Thy Neighbour’ devotional series both inspiring and challenging. We are so blessed to have had the contribution of some remarkable Christians from across our nation. They’ve offered us nuggets of wisdom, pangs of truth, and visions of hope.
They’ve helped us explore what it really means to love our neighbour - a love that is humble, costly and, ultimately, triumphant; a love that is not just reserved for those with whom we’re friendly, but also equally for our enemies. That is what we are called to do.
It’s a clear call, and if we understood God’s character, it makes perfect sense why He asks this of us. We have all been created in the image of God. ALL of us - men, women, black, white, Christian, Muslim. So the reason we are called to love our neighbour, is because our love of neighbour - our love of others - is our love of God. The way we treat others is the way we treat God.
Jesus paints a pictures of this in Matthew 25:31 when speaking of God’s ultimate judgment. We’re told that every time we help feed the hungry, shelter the homeless, care for the sick, we also feed, shelter, and care for God. “I’m telling the solemn truth: Whenever you did one of these things to someone overlooked or ignored, that was me - you did it to me”. But it works the other way too. When we turn our back on those in need, when we judge others without even meeting them, when we speak hatefully of our ‘enemies’, so too we do all these things to God.
This is seriously challenging, because the nature of humanity is that we are all broken in some way. We will inevitably fail in the call to love our neighbour sometimes, perhaps even most of the time. But that’s where the power and beauty of grace steps in. Even when we fail to love others and therefore to love Him, He still love us - unconditionally.
That said, grace doesn’t remove the need to do our best, to ask forgiveness when we fall, and to pick ourselves up (with His help) and try again. What’s striking in Matthew 25, as in so many of the passages referenced over the last week, is that our love of neighbour is often most evident in our treatment of those who are marginalised in some way. In other words, our love of neighbour is often most evident in our pursuit of justice.
And that’s the importance of a movement like Common Grace: to seek justice with and for our neighbours. Our literal neighbours, like the woman next door suffering abuse at the hands of her partner; our local community, including the homeless man we pass everyday on the way to work; our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders brothers and sisters who will forever feel the pain of the lands and culture stolen from them; our neighbours in the Pacific who are right now suffering the effects of climate change; our fellow men and women of faith, many of them Muslim, who are fleeing war and persecution in Syria; and even our enemies who are sowing the seeds of hate, violence, and fear.
We are called to love them all.
We will never do it perfectly, but we will do the best that we can, we will do it together, and we will do it with God’s call to action and His abundant grace - His common grace - that is available to all. Thank you for joining us on the journey!