26 September 2010

Compassion, Justice and the Pursuit of Peace:
Ten Years On from 9/11

Chris Marshall
Religious Studies Programme
Victoria University of Wellington
The 2011 Annual Peace Lecture Otago University, September 26, 2011

Let me begin by thanking the Otago University Chaplaincy and the Dunedin Abrahamic Interfaith Group for inviting me to deliver the 2011 annual Peace Lecture. I count it a real honour to do so, especially as I'm aware that many previous lecturers have been persons of far greater eminence (and eloquence) than me. I am also mindful that tonight’s lecture has the added significance of marking the tenth anniversary of 9/11, which makes my task even more daunting. But I have had a lifelong interest in peace and reconciliation, and, speaking as a devout Christian, consider peacemaking to be a religious obligation that is deeply, normatively rooted in the primary sources of the Christian tradition in the New Testament as will become clear presently.

I'm also very pleased to have the opportunity to visit the Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies at Otago University, directed by Professor Kevin Clements, and the Centre for Theology and Public Issues, headed by Professor Andrew Bradstock. The aims of both these ventures are close to my heart - even if they are under the aegis of quite the wrong University!

A fortnight ago, we commemorated the dreadful events of September 11, 2001, events that dramatically altered world history. Historical change, of course, is a perpetually occurring phenomenon, and there is nothing new about our human capacity for cruelty and bloodshed. But there remains a genuine sense in which history did change significantly, on that sultry summer morning in New York City, when fully laden passenger planes were flown into Twin Towers (and the Pentagon) and some 3000 innocent souls perished. Recalling that awful day, one British journalist writes: I was in Brussels when Armageddon arrivedi

As well as plunging America into an era of seemingly endless war, the religious sensibilities of the hijackers and their handlers, as well as of many of those in America who have prosecuted the so-called Global War on Terror, have heightened anxieties in the public mind about the potential – even the predisposition – of religious piety to promulgate and perpetrate acts of unspeakable horror and violence. It has also raised questions about the relationship between the world’s great faith traditions, and whether it is ever possible for them to dwell together in unity, in the words of the Psalm (133).

It is now a commonplace to hear religion generically excoriated - especially by the so-called New Atheists - as a singular cause of many of the world’s most entrenched hatreds and conflicts. It is much less common, but surely much more important, to hear public discussion about how the unique power of religious belief and devotion – which is, after all, an ineradicable part of human existence and is never going to simply disappear of its own accord - how that power can be harnessed in the cause of peace, justice and reconciliation.

A Common Word

But there are notable exceptions. In October 2007, for example, 138 Muslim leaders in America published an open letter in the New York Times, addressed to their Christian counterparts, entitled, A Common Word Between Us and You. The letter proposed that, whilst Islam and Christianity are obviously different religions, the commandments to love God and love one's neighbour are a crucial area of agreement between the Qur'an, the Torah and the New Testament.

The unity of God, and a commitment to love this God, and to love one's neighbour as oneself, forms the common ground on which Islam, Judaism, and Christianity are founded, and thus furnishes a constructive basis for forging interreligious understanding and peacemaking.

The following month, an appreciative response, crafted by Christian theologians at Yale University, was published in the Times, under the signatures of over 300 prominent Christian leaders. In July 2008, 150 scholars and spiritual leaders from both religious communities gathered at Yale University to discuss and debate both statements. The proceedings of their conference were published last year in a book entitled, A Common Word: Muslims and Christians on Loving God and Neighbor (Eerdmans 2010), and there has been a further follow up conference again this year.

Meanwhile, the Common Word initiative has grown into what is possibly the world's most successful interfaith enterprise ever. It has achieved unprecedented global acceptance, including endorsement by the heads of the Roman Catholic, Orthodox, Anglican and Lutheran communions, and by over 460 Islamic organizations, as well as by some Jewish authorities. And the goodwill engendered by the venture is now beginning to trickle down to a congregational level as well. According to Christian theologian, Miroslav Volf, the Common Word project has the potential to become an historic watershed in redefining relations between the world’s two numerically largest faiths.

Distinctive Frameworks

Of course, even if all three Abrahamic religions share a common emphasis on love of God and neighbour, differences of definition remain. Muslims, Christians, and Jews will likely mean somewhat different things by the words love, God and neighbour in the commandments, and there will be differences on these matters within each tradition as well. All may agree on the necessity of worshipping the one true God, but will disagree on the nature and attributes of this God.

For Christians, for example, a proper understanding of the nature of God is inextricably connected with the doctrines of Incarnation, Crucifixion and Trinity, all of which Muslims deny. For many Muslims (and indeed Jews), these classical Christian doctrines serve to imperil or impair or even contradict God's absolute Unity, which lies at the basis of the great commandment.

But this, of course, is not how Christians perceive it. For Christians, there is still only one God - one numerically identical divine essence - but one shared by three modes of subsistence, as Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

This tri-unity of God, moreover, is not some secondary or expendable detail; it is integral to appreciating what it means to love God and love neighbour. For, in Christian understanding, love derives from God's very own being, so how we understand God will shape how we understand love. As 1 John 4 famously puts it: God is love (4:16), and We should love one another because everyone who loves is born of God and knows God...for God is love (4:7-8).

To say God is love, and that to love is to know God, is to say more than God has love, or feels love, or expresses love for his creatures. It is to say that love is an essential attribute of God's personal being.

Now love, of its very nature, is a relational reality. It requires an object to whom it is directed and from whom, in its purest form, it receives love in return. According to Christian Trinitarian confession, this relational give-and- take of love is present within the very life of God. God is an incomparable and unique Unity, to be sure; but a unity that is internally differentiated, with reciprocating love flowing endlessly between the three persons of the triune Godhead.

This love also flows outward in historical acts of creation. But it manifests itself supremely in the Incarnation of Christ - by which, and through whom, God graciously receives human nature into the divine experience. And the ultimate demonstration of God's love - in all its unconditional, indiscriminate and sacrificial perfection - is Christ's atoning death and resurrection for the sake of our redemption.

It is the self-giving life and death of Jesus Christ that serves, in Christian perspective, as the supreme paradigm for what it means to love our neighbours as ourselves. Greater love has no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends (John 15:13).

So, then: the Christian narrative of salvation - with its undergirding apprehension of God's tri-unity (or what has been called Christianity's complex monotheism) - offers a distinctive framework for understanding the meaning and depth of the love we are summoned to show in the great commandments.

Muslim and Jewish traditions will similarly have their own distinctive insights into these commandments, while demurring from certain features of Christian understanding. The challenge for all three communities is to develop, not simply a passive toleration of one another's idiosyncratic views, but a positive appreciation of what each brings to the table.

Such mutual appreciation will most readily arise from an open hearted and sympathetic encounter between the most sincere believers of each tradition. Such interfaith engagement, on the part of the most deeply committed, affords the possibility of each encountering in the religion of the other, aspects of what is good and true and holy. And when dedicated believers of one tradition, experience in the adherents of another tradition, facets of truth and beauty and goodness and holiness they cannot deny, things necessarily change.

When one finds God disclosed in one's neighbour, and even, perchance, in those hitherto thought to be strangers or infidels or apostates or enemies, in that discovery lies the prospect of lasting peace - a peace grounded in something far more profound than passive toleration, and far more enduring than anything secular politics can produce.

With this background in mind, let me now turn to one of the two places in the gospel tradition in the New Testament where we find the Common Word of love for God and love of neighbour explicitly stated, expressly endorsed by Jesus, and dramatically illustrated in a powerful parable. The passage is Luke 10:25-37.

Just then a lawyer stood up to test Jesus. Teacher, he said, what must I do to inherit eternal life? He said to him, What is written in the law? What do you read there?

He answered, You shall 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 your neighbor as yourself.

And he said to him, You have given the right answer; do this, and you will live. But wanting to justify himself, he asked Jesus, And who is my neighbour? Jesus replied:

A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell into the hands of robbers, who stripped him, beat him, and went away, leaving him half dead. Now by chance a priest was going down that road; and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, he passed by on the other side.

> But a Samaritan while traveling came near him; and when he saw him, he was moved with compassion. He went to him and bandaged his wounds, having poured oil and wine on them. Then he put him on his own animal, brought him to an inn, and took care of him. The next day he took out two denarii, gave them to the innkeeper, and said, 'Take care of him; and when I come back, I will repay you whatever more you spend.'

Which of these three, do you think, was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of the robbers? He said, The one who showed him mercy. Jesus said to him, Go you and do likewise.

What Must I Do?

Luke's narrative opens with a certain lawyer asking Jesus what he must do to inherit eternal life. The lawyer would have been a Torah scholar, an expert in the texts and traditions of first-century Jewish law and custom. The fact that he stood up to ask his question, and salutes Jesus courteously as a teacher, suggests he has been seated amongst those whom Jesus has just been instructing. The question he asks was probably a commonplace in religious discussion of his time, and it is likely that Jesus was well known for discoursing on it (cf. 18:30; Mark 10:30; Matt 19:29; 25:46).

As a specialist in the Torah, the lawyer would have naturally assumed the answer to his question resided in the Torah. But where in the Torah? How was God's law to be rightly understood and obeyed? He was presumably hoping to elicit from Jesus a summary of the Torah's most fundamental or ineluctable requirements, perhaps captured in a single paradigmatic commandment, the fulfilment of which would comprehend all other precepts in the law, and thus guarantee eternal life.

Jesus responds to his question with a counter-question that invites the lawyer to nail his own colours to the mast: What is written in the law, he asks? What do you read there? (v.26). This was a standard rabbinic formula for inviting someone to recite or expound the relevant Scripture.

What is most revealing at this point of the interchange is the extent of common ground between Jesus and his interlocutor. There is agreement that access to the future world is a valid concern and should not be taken for granted; that the requirements of entry are disclosed in the Torah; and that performance of the Torah is not only desirable and feasible, it is absolutely essential.

There is no trace of anxiety, on either side, about the dangers of legalism or self-righteousness or earning one's own salvation through accumulating merit. The key issue is not whether Torah observance is necessary for salvation, but how the Torah is to be construed and obeyed.

In response to Jesus' question, the lawyer brings together two widely separated commandments in the Torah: the Shema from Deut. 6:4-5, which faithful Israelites were expected to recite twice a day, and the formulation of the Golden Rule in Lev. 19:18.

He answered, You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind (cf. Deut. 6:5); and your neighbour as yourself (cf. Lev. 19:18).

Here, then, we have the Common Word text. There are three striking features about this interchange I want to highlight. First, it is the Jewish lawyer, not Jesus, who nominates the love commandments as the law's centre of gravity; second, in doing so, he conflates two distinct commandments into a single unitary obligation; and third, he construes this obligation to be principally a matter of volitional obedience rather than emotional experience. Let me expand on each of these observations.

a) The question of originality:

The first thing to note is that it is the lawyer who offers the twin love commandments as the heart and goal of the law's teaching and the key to eternal life. This insight is not depicted as a hermeneutical innovation on the part of Jesus, though Christians have often regarded it as such. It comes, instead, from the cross-examining, and somewhat hostile, Jewish lawyer.

Some commentators propose that the lawyer is simply echoing or reflecting back what he had first learned from Jesus' teaching. That could be so. But there is absolutely no hint of it in the text whatsoever. On the contrary, Jesus expressly asks the lawyer to draw on his own existing legal knowledge to answer his question - What do you read there?, he asks. The foundational importance of the love commands, in other words, is another area of commonality between Jesus and the Jewish scholar.

Now this may come as a surprise to many Christians, who usually credit Jesus with this original insight. Indeed enormous scholarly effort has been expended trying to prove that Jesus' teaching on the double love commandments was innovative or unique. To be fair, the evidence is complex and difficult to assess, and there are certainly distinctive features about Jesus' teaching on the subject in the Gospels.

But none of the Gospel accounts ever suggests that Jesus was alone in recognising the pre-eminence of the twin love commandments. Certainly Luke has absolutely nothing invested in implying that Jesus' perspective was in any way novel or original. He even places the crucial confession on the lips of an antagonistic legal opponent, who was out to trap Jesus in his words. As far as Luke, and indeed all the Gospel writers, are concerned, this truly was a common word shared, not only by Jesus and his supporters, but also by his critics and opponents.


b) The conflation of the twin commands:

This leads to the second observation on the episode: In answering Jesus' question, the lawyer conflates two distinct commandments into a single unit without differentiation, governed by a single verb: You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and soul and strength and mind...and your neighbour as yourself.

In the other, parallel story in the Gospel tradition involving the love commandments (Mark 12/Matthew 22), the situation is different. There, love for God is identified as the first and greatest commandment, and love of neighbour as the second commandment, though like the first in character (Mk 12:28-31; Matt 22:38-39). This hierarchical enumeration of first and second keeps the two commandments quite distinct. Love for God is given absolute primacy; love for neighbour comes second in importance, though it remains inseparably linked with the first.

But this hierarchical enumeration does not occur in Luke's episode. Here the lawyer blends the two commandments into a single obligation, controlled by a single imperative. Moreover Jesus endorses this amalgamation: You have given the right answer, he says. Do this (not, do these), and you will live. The two commandments are not simply juxtaposed; they are effectively combined.

What are we to infer from this? The inference seems to be that love for God includes and enables love of neighbour, while love of neighbour expresses and requires love for God. This does not mean the two objects are considered identical or interchangeable, with God and neighbour being different words for the same reality. There are still two objects - God and neighbour - and God is still mentioned first. But there is only one love.

Luke's point is: There can be no love for God without love for neighbour, and no love for neighbour that does not involve pleasing or obeying God. To love God with all of one's heart and mind and soul and strength - that is, with the totality of one's physical, moral, intellectual and emotional capacities - as the commandment enjoins, requires loving one's neighbour as well, and loving one's neighbour is an integral part of one's total response to God. God cannot be loved in isolation, but only in and through loving other people.

This, once again, is something on which Jesus and the Jewish lawyer are in total agreement. Love for God and love of neighbour are inseparable obligations. Without love for neighbour, it is impossible to love or please God.

c) Love as ethical obligation:

This brings us to the third observation. The love that Scripture speaks of, in all this, is primarily a volitional and moral commitment, not an emotional experience. After all, if God commands us to love, then love must be, first and foremost, a matter of formal obedience. It is not a case of having warm, fuzzy feelings towards others - which cannot be ordered into existence - but rather a case of willing and doing what is necessary to secure the other's welfare.

Once more, this is something Jesus and the lawyer agree on. The lawyer asked, What must I do to inherit eternal life? Jesus responds by prompting him to recite the love commandments, then says, Do this and you shall live. Love is something to be done, not something to be felt. Love for God is to be done by obeying God's will. Love for neighbour is to be done by acting in the neighbour's best interests.

Both concur on this. But, for the first time in our story, a crack begins to open up between them on two other, consequential matters - on the extent to which love should go on behalf of its object, and on how inclusive love's object should be. On these two matters, Jesus appears to sets a new high watermark.

Now, remember that Jesus' interrogator is a lawyer. He's not only a lawyer, he's a very good lawyer. Like all lawyers, he wants to nail down his terms; and as a good lawyer he pays very careful attention to the actual wording and context of the relevant legislation. The law stipulates that he must love his neighbour as himself, and Jesus confirms that by doing so he will gain eternal life. But, the lawyer inquires, Who precisely is my neighbour?

Now this seems to be a perfectly reasonable question - and one that close attention to the commandment's original setting and intent can easily answer. It is crystal clear in Leviticus 19 that the term neighbour refers to fellow members of the covenant community of Israel. It designates, not just those who live in close physical proximity to one's self, but those who share in full covenantal status.

To love one's neighbour, then, in Leviticus 19, does not mean to act benevolently towards all human beings in general. It means to uphold and protect the rights, dignity, and status of all those within the covenant community of Israel. In short, the neighbour of the original commandment is a fellow Israelite.

For Jesus, however, the key issue in the interpretation of Lev. 19:18 is not the definition of the term neighbour, it is the meaning of the verb love. Neighbours, according to Jesus, are not created by accident of birth, or nationality, or religion, or law; they are discovered through love.

When love is present and active, the identification of neighbours takes care of itself. According to the rule of love, we stand in neighbourly relationship to every person we encounter, irrespective of any secondary status that law or religion or culture or ethnicity or nationality or creed might, or might not, confer upon them.

It is here, then, that Jesus differs from the lawyer. Both accept that love of neighbour sums up the Torah and is essential for eternal life. But whereas the lawyer thinks the critical issue is the scope of the term neighbour, Jesus considers it to be the scope of the term love.

The lawyer reduces love to its legal minimum, by restricting the category of neighbour to fellow members of his own religious community. Jesus, however, maximizes the category of neighbour, because he refuses to limit the demands of love. Neighbours are not chosen or created by religion or by nationality; they are found and cultivated through human encounter.

Moreover because love of neighbour is inseparable from love of God, and because love of God is meant to engage the entire personality in undivided commitment, there can be no exceptions to love's attentiveness, and no limits to what love requires.

But how does Jesus convey his new, radically extensive understanding of neighbour love? How does he seek to persuade the lawyer of it? Not by means of abstract philosophical reflection, or by exegetical-linguistic debate, but by telling a story - the so-called parable of the Good Samaritan - an imaginary little tale that operates on multiple levels and that teaches many lessons.

I am currently completing a book that probes the relevance of this parable for legal theory in general and restorative justice in particular. Here, however, in the short time that remains, I want to comment on the parable's relevance to peacemaking. For arguably the most radical and disconcerting feature of this remarkable little tale is the way it elides the boundary between neighbour-love and enemy-love.

A Parable of Enemy Love

The parable itself will be familiar to many of you. It tells of a man who is brutally assaulted on a trip from Jerusalem to Jericho, and left for dead on the side of the road. Two passing temple officials notice the unconscious man in the ditch. But instead of stopping to help him, they cross to the other side of the road and carry on their way.

Next a travelling Samaritan merchant chances upon the victim. He is moved with compassion at what he sees. He bandages the victim's wounds, lifts him on to his own donkey, and transports him to a nearby inn, where he takes care of him overnight. The following day, the Samaritan must resume his journey, but not before paying the innkeeper in advance to continue nursing the injured man back to health, and promising to reimburse him for any other expenses he might incur (!)

Jesus concludes the story by inviting the lawyer to nominate which of the three characters in the episode acted like a true neighbour to the man who fell into the hands of robbers, then enjoins the lawyer to go and do likewise.

Jesus' first audience would have been taken aback at the appearance of a Samaritan in the story. After the priest and the Levite, they would have naturally expected the third character to be an Israelite layman, since the threefold division of priests, Levites and all the children of Israel was a standard way of summarising the diversity of the nation. Yet not only does Jesus use a Samaritan in place of an Israelite, he portrays him as responding in a way that puts the religious leaders to shame.

The jarring nature of this reversal of roles cannot be emphasised too strongly. All the literary and historical evidence we have suggests that relations between Jews and Samaritans in the first-century were implacably hostile. Both groups viewed the other in the darkest of terms, and tensions between the two communities were widespread, deep-seated, and sometimes viciously violent.

It is only by appreciating the full extent of this culture of mutual loathing that we can begin to comprehend the far-reaching ramifications of Jesus' casting of a Samaritan as the saviour of the Jewish stranger on the roadside. Now, Jesus uses the parable, remember, to expound the commandment: You shall love your neighbour as yourself (Lev. 19:18). But his exposition of the commandment is stunningly subversive.

But by deliberately reversing these roles - by portraying a despised enemy as the vehicle of compassionate, restorative love - Jesus effectively achieved two more radical outcomes: he expands the meaning of neighbour love to include enemy love; and he nullifies the identification of religious opponents with the enemies of God or the instruments of Satan.

Both moves were phenomenally daring. With few exceptions, it was taken for granted in antiquity that one should love one's friends and harm one's enemies (cf. Matt. 5:43). Jesus, by startling contrast, deemed love of friends to be ethically unremarkable (Lk 6:32-34; Matt. 5:46-47), whilst valorising love for one's enemies as the true sign of fidelity to God, for God is kind to the ungrateful and the wicked (Lk 6:27-31, 35-36; Matt. 5:44-45).

This was shocking enough. But what is doubly shocking in the parable is that the one who displays such God-honouring enemy love was himself deemed by Jesus' hearers to be an enemy of God, a foreigner (Lk 17:18), who knew not the God of Israel he falsely claimed to worship (cf. John 4:22), and upon whom divine judgment could legitimately be called down (Lk 9:51- 55).

Jesus could have enrolled a Samaritan as the victim and had a Jewish benefactor stop to render him assistance. That would have exemplified love for enemy well enough. But it would not have deconstructed the pervasive stereotyping of other religious groups as inherently evil adversaries, and could even have reinforced his audience's sense of moral superiority towards them.

To reverse the roles of hero and villain in this way was an incredibly audacious thing to do. Kenneth Bailey explains how, even after living in the Middle East for over 20 years, he never had the courage to tell Palestinians a story about a noble Israeli, or Armenians a tale about a noble Turk.

Only one who has lived as a part of a community with a bitterly hated traditional enemy can understand fully the courage of Jesus in making the despised Samaritan appear as morally superior to the religious leadership of his audience. Thus Jesus speaks to one of the audience's deepest hatreds and painfully exposes it.

The parable of the Good Samaritan, then, is a parable of enemy love and a parable generous religiosity. It shows how the boundaries that divide people into mutually hostile groups are relativised and destabilized when individuals choose to ascribe absolute priority to love and compassion, over all other cultural and religious reservations or inhibitions.

Witnessing the desperate need of the dying victim, the Samaritan is so moved with compassion that an erstwhile Judean enemy is transformed into a neighbour, and treated as such. The Samaritan extends to an anonymous stranger the intimacy of care befitting a close friend or brother, without giving a moment's thought to his ethnic origins or religious loyalties. It is as if the whole sorry history of hatred between these two rival groups had never existed.

The parable teaches, then, that the familiar and comforting correlation we make between friend and foe with good and evil, is deceiving and dangerously unreliable. Religious enemies are capable of doing great good, and compartriots can do evil, sometimes by doing nothing at all.

It also teaches that the most powerful way to overcome such destructive dualisms is by simple acts of kindness and compassion, on the part of individuals, who reach across the divisions of fear and loathing that divide hostile communities, in order to treat the other as brother, the foreigner as friend, the enemy as neighbour, the one who suffers as the object of human compassion.

Love as Compassionate Action

I said a moment ago that the love the biblical commandments speak of is primarily a volitional and activist commitment, not an emotional experience. Commentators frequently belabour this point, with a palpable sense of relief! They note, for example, that it is only by understanding love in non-emotional terms is it possible to make sense to loving your enemies. Love of enemy cannot be a feeling, because enemies, by definition, are those for whom you do not feel tenderness or affection or warmth. We love our enemies, not by caring deeply for them, but by refraining from harming them, or hurting them, or killing them, or perhaps by actively helping them.

Now this is true, insofar as it goes. Biblical love is unquestionably an action more than a sentiment, something done, more than something felt. But the parable of the Good Samaritan suggests there is more to love of neighbour than benevolent activism. The Samaritan's extraordinary actions in the parable - which are recounted in exquisite detail - are the direct result of him being moved with compassion at what he saw (v.33).

This verb denotes a stirring in his innards, a gut-wrenching surge of emotion that propelled him into action. The love he displayed was more than a clinical, cold-hearted compliance to the dictates of moral law; it was a passionate, sympathetic sharing in the victim's personal suffering and isolation. The Samaritan did justice to his legal and moral obligation to love his neighbour as himself by feeling compassion and by acting in accordance.

For Jesus, then, neighbour-love is more than practical action; it is more than showing respect for the equal rights and freedoms of others (as it is in contemporary liberal ethics); and it is certainly more than choosing not to kill someone. It is, instead, a love that is patterned after our love for God.

Just as love for God cannot be reduced to exterior actions alone but is all encompassing in its reach - engaging the entire heart, mind, soul and strength - so love for neighbour cannot be limited to external deeds alone, but involves feelings, thoughts and motivations as well.

This is an important consequence of the amalgamation of the two Torah commandments into a single command, governed by a single verb. It is not uncommon in the Abrahamic traditions to see a deep affinity between one's love for God and the emotional intensity of human love, especially romantic love. This is the common stuff of mysticism and worship. It is less common to reverse the relation and understand love for one's fellow human beings as demanding the same intensity and passion of love that we have for God.

But this is precisely what the parable teaches. The whole-heartedness of the covenant love for God enjoined in the Torah must also be extended to our neighbours as well. Both God and neighbour are to be loved with the whole of one's heart, mind, soul and strength. In both cases, the love entailed is volitional, rational, practical and emotional in character.

Such love is commanded, not because it involves actions alone, but because love begins with an intentional commitment, before it is either an action or an emotion. We must choose to love before we do anything practical, and whether or not we feel anything emotionally. But, having chosen the path of love, actions and feelings will ensue.

The Samaritan acted with such sacrificial dedication to meeting the needs of an erstwhile enemy because he felt compassion for him.

He felt compassion because he saw him as a fellow human being in life-threatening need.

He saw him as a human being only because he had long since renounced the dehumanizing stereotype that deems outsiders and religious opponents to be less than fully human or even the embodiments of evil. He had predetermined that he would show care to all those he directly encountered in his daily life, irrespective of race, class, religion, colour, nationality or creed. He felt compassion because he had already taught himself to put the equal humanity of others ahead of all other considerations.

Then, being moved with compassion at what he encountered, he engaged all the powers of his personality - his sight, his heart, his hands, his strength, his time, his possessions and his intelligence - to meet the needs of a collective enemy. This is the most staggering feature of this parable. The Samaritan's display of love exceeds mere charity; it is unreserved in its passion and commitment.

This leaves us, as hearers of the story, with an inescapable question: From whence comes such all-encompassing love for others? Whence comes this intensity and generosity of human love that universalises neighbours and even elides the distinction between neighbours and enemies?

It can only come, religious believers would say, from God, who is the source of all love. It can only come, finally, from knowing and understanding the love of God, and experiencing that love in all its limitless depths and boundless grace. Conclusion

This, then, is perhaps the main take home lesson of this parable for interreligious peacemaking. If we encourage those within our respective faith traditions truly to love God with all of their hearts and minds and souls and strength, as our Scriptures all require, and to appreciate the extensive and self-giving nature of God's own love, and to model their love of neighbour on their love for God, and on the love of God itself, then peace must result.

Everyone who loves, 1 John 4 says, is born of God, and knows God, for God is love. And no one who is truly born of God, or who truly knows God's love, can hate or kill or demonise their enemies in the name of God.

There is a second take home lesson for peacemaking, as well. The parable recounts a direct encounter between members of two mutually hostile religious communities, and the emergence of a relationship between them. The Samaritan did not simply render emergency first aid to the victim at the roadside then continue on his way. He committed himself to a relationship of enduring care and responsibility for the victim, both in immediate term and into the future.

There is perhaps an important clue here for peacemaking. The deliberate fostering of interpersonal contact between individuals from opposing groups is an extremely powerful, though under-appreciated, tool for conflict transformation. Arguably the best - and only lasting - way to initiate change in the attitudes of mutual suspicion and hostility that divide warring groups, is by building one-to-one friendships between key individuals from both sides - what Jewish conflict specialist Marc Gopin calls civilian diplomacy.

Such concrete relationships between individuals from opposite sides of the tracks, by their very existence, complexify reality and disallow the wholesale demonising of the other group.

Just as the impact of collective violence is ultimately experienced by individual actors, and disseminated through personal networks by the constant recounting of stories of suffering and injustice, so the impact of individual acts of reconciliation can spread through the relational networks that tie communities together, and gradually accumulate, until a tipping-point is reached and society-wide shifts in consciousness occur.

As stories of enemies acting out of character as enemies are told and retold, they erode the foundations of prejudice and stereotyping upon which historically entrenched structures of animosity rest, so that peaceful coexistence begins to be conceivable.

Jesus' remarkable parable of the Good Samaritan is one such story of enemies acting out of character as enemies. It is a fictional story, to be sure; but it is still an immensely powerful story for deconstructing the comforting, yet ultimately death dealing, distinctions we draw between us and them, truth and falsehood, friends and foreigners, believers and unbelievers, neighbours and enemies.

Certainly it is immensely powerful for Christians, because of the authority of the one who tells the story. Yet it is also powerful for those outside of the Christian tradition, because of its intrinsic moral truthfulness. It is impossible to deny that the Samaritan in the story did the right thing, whereas the other characters did not.

Yet, the greatest challenge of all lies not in what the Samaritan did; it lies in closing words of Jesus. Which of these three, he asks the lawyer, do you think was a neighbour to the man who fell into the hands of robbers? The one who showed him mercy, the lawyer replied.

Jesus said to him, "Go you and do likewise".

Martin Fletcher, Sifting Through the 9/11 Apocalypse, Dominion Point, September 7, 2011: B5