Through her sermon last Sunday, Janine set a big challenge. She reminded us that our neighbour does not end with the family next door, the people in our street, or even the people in our town or country. Every human being is a potential ‘neighbour’.
As she observed, it is comparatively easy to give food to the foodbank when we have plenty. What about sharing with those who have none when we ourselves have little? Or, even more challenging, could we offer the gift of forgiveness to any fellow human who treated us with contempt and cruelty?
Janine told the story of Corrie ten Boom, a Dutch woman who, with her father and sister sheltered Jewish families from the Nazis. Working with the resistance, some 800 people passed through their secret room to safety. They were eventually betrayed and Corrie and her sister, Betsie ended up in Ravensbruck concentration camp. Betsie died. Their father had died earlier. Corrie, through an administrative error, was released.
Corrie spent much of the rest of her life writing and public speaking, spreading a message of hope and peace and love. On one speaking tour she recognised a former guard from Ravensbruck who had been particularly cruel to Betsie. To her surprise as he held her hand and told his story, Corrie’s initial shock at recognising him turned to warmth and forgiveness.
Like Corrie, a German widow hid Jewish refugees in her home. Friends became concerned.
“You are risking your own safety,” they told her.
“I know that,” she said.
“Then why do you persist in doing this?”
“I am doing it,” she said, “because the time is now and I am here.”