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Grenfell Tower: how to love your neighbour

Friday Night Theology

Nicole Dempster is public advocacy intern at the Evangelical Alliance in Scotland.

This week was an opportunity to remember those who died in the Grenfell Tower fire in June last year.On the anniversary of the fire, people paid tribute to the 72 victims, and heard emotional and raw testimonies from their family and friends. From babies to the elderly, from disabled to ethnic minorities, many groups were affected by this fire, and many lives were changed forever. The hearing was full of pain and sadness, as the ongoing inquiry now seeks to explain why a fire of this scale was able to occur in a newly refurbished block of flats. Many of those who have spoken at the inquiry have described their inability to forgive and their need to find someone to blame. 

It was in the midst of the darkness and sorrow of the testimonies that one story stood out to me. A story of a man named Ray, who loved his neighbour as himself. On the night of the fire Ray had welcomed seven of his neighbours into his top-floor flat as they awaited rescue. Ray offered refuge to his neighbours and when later examined it was found that they had sat on his bed, while Ray sat on the floor at their feet. In an inquiry full of sadness and grief, we heard Ray’s family describe him as a hero”. I’m not sure if Ray was a Christian or not, but his actions on that night reflect to me a different kind of love, that is so often absent from our society. He welcomed his neighbours into his home and gave up a space on his bed for others as they took their final breath. 

This act of kindness struck me, because it reminded me of what it looks like to love your neighbour as yourself. It is ultimately how we are called to live, loving others as we would ourselves. When asked the greatest command in the Mosaic Law, we are told Jesus replied: Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: Love your neighbour as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments” (Matthew 22:36 – 40).

Our challenge this week can be to consider: how can we love our neighbours better? How can we practically follow the example set by Jesus and shown by Ray? In a society that places such a high value on social media and staying indoors, it’s easy to create a culture where showing love to our neighbours becomes less of a priority. Yet when the church loves God, we love others. To love our neighbours is to be sacrificial, it’s to humble ourselves to them and it’s to welcome them in no matter what the circumstances. 

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