Have you ever heard of the butterfly effect? The idea is that a butterfly flaps their wings on one side of the world causing a tornado on the other. The basic notion is that even minute changes can be hugely impactful in the long term. There is a problem with this idea though; what are we supposed to do about it exactly? It’s helpful to know that our actions are impactful to varying degrees, but which ones should we single out? When we consider that we aren’t islands and live within communities it’s important to ask these questions.
When reading the Old Testament, in particular the law, it is essential to understand how important community was to Israel, and indeed to God. God wasn’t addressing Israel only as individuals, He was speaking to a body of people that needed to learn how to live together, honouring Him as they did so. That’s why so many of the laws directly address the relationship between neighbours. This leads to some rather specific laws such as erecting a parapet around the roof so that someone won’t fall off it (Deuteronomy 22:8). But most essential of these ‘health and safety’ laws is the summary principle to “not do anything that endangers your neighbour’s life. I am the Lord” (Leviticus 19:16b). In this statement God gives us the principle, to not let your actions cause your neighbour harm, and the reason why; “I am the Lord.” The fact that God commands it is enough for us to listen and obey. From Scripture we know that we obey Him out of reverent fear, but also because obeying the Lord is best for us, and for our community.
In the New Testament the motivation for community responsibility is explained by Jesus as love. Jesus summarises the law as both loving God, and loving your neighbour as yourself (Mark 12:30-31). Why do we choose to be responsible for one another? Because we love one another. In the same way as Israel were charged with avoiding harm to one another, so we find that same law applicable to us today.
We are really excited to be welcoming many of you back into the church building on Tuesday for our community Bible Studies, but as we rejoin together the principle of ‘don’t endanger your neighbour’ becomes even more important. It has always been the case, but now especially, that our small actions could seriously impact the most vulnerable in our community. We’re looking forward to moving towards the new normal, and as we do so let’s stay safe for our own sake, and for the love of God and the community.