Love Thy Neighbour


 

“The first in importance is: ‘Listen, Israel: The Lord your God is one; so love the Lord God with all your passion and prayer and intelligence and energy.’ And here is the second: ‘Love others as well as you love yourself.’ There is no other commandment that ranks with these.”  Mark 12:30-31 (MSG)

Although Tracey and I were born, raised and spent a majority of our lives in Canada, the gracious welcome we have received and the experiences we have had in our time in Australia has made both of us feel that this is now home. In our adopted land, we know God is calling us to be here, to lead His people to walk alongside all Australians to transform their lives with the love of Jesus.

We are so thankful for being here. We are thankful for the vastness of this great, wide, brown land: the beauty, blessing and pleasure to be surrounded by some of the most breathtaking elements of God’s beauty each day. We are thankful for the Australian people: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders who have lived on this land for thousands of years, our highly successful and well-functioning multicultural community, and the thousands of Salvos who live, love and fight alongside others every day. We are also thankful for the many nations in our region: the Pacific Islands, our friends ‘across the ditch’ and our brothers and sisters in the South East Asian region. As The Salvation Army in Australia we are called to love and serve all of our neighbours.

Frederick Coutts, the eighth General of our movement, said “Basically, to love God is to put His will first in our lives. To love our neighbour is to put their needs before our own.” The passage of scripture above and General Coutts’ wisdom is at the primary purpose of our movement: ‘love God, love others’.

The Salvation Army in Australia loves our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander neighbours. We love our international neighbours. We love our refugee neighbours. We love our homeless neighbours. We love our lonely neighbours. We love our LGBTIQ neighbours. We love our Muslim neighbours. We love all of our neighbours. The values of diversity and respect, as outlined in our national values statement, are crucial to The Salvation Army being effective mission and spiritual partners with all of our neighbours. We commit ourselves in prayer and practice to this land of Australia and its people, seeking reconciliation, unity and equity.

A young lady stood at the back of a meeting I was facilitating in Melbourne as part of the Australia One consultation a few months back. She was a client of one of our homelessness programs. She said, “So what? All of this talk about Australia One, what does it actually mean to the people living on the streets?” It was a sobering reminder to me that we MUST, at all times, be cognisant of the people who need us most. Loving our neighbour is part of our DNA as a movement. We must continue to live, love and fight so that people like this young lady understand and feel the impact of what we are doing to unite our Army and that “love will teach our hands to serve and multiply our powers” (Catherine Booth).

This week, Christians are descending on the Melbourne Town Hall in Victoria for The Justice Conference to explore Jesus’ great commandment to love thy neighbour. I am proud that five Salvos will be representing the Army from the main stage, demonstrating and sharing the love they provide as Officers and Soldiers to the people we walk alongside each day. Concurrently, the State Social Command Victoria is holding their DIVERSITY conference in Melbourne this week. Integral to the Salvation Army’s mission values is diversity. I thank Majors Mike and Annette Coleman for their leadership to continue to highlight the ever-present need for diversity and inclusion in our social outreach.

As Salvos in communities around Australia continue to unpack the vision God has laid out for His Army, we will continue to transform lives with the love of Jesus and be completely devoted in our love, inclusion and ministry for others.

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