A word of wisdom! Brothers and sisters can fall out, say all sorts of mean things about each other, but NEVER, NEVER agree with them! They can be vile to each other, but woe betide you if you say anything bad about their beloved sibling. You are suddenly the common enemy. Politicians use this too, to help unite a country. They will find another people-group to be the ‘enemy’ and their own people are suddenly all working together, to defeat that common enemy.
I wonder if the new king of Egypt was struggling to master authority and exercise his dominion. Maybe he used the ploy – fear of the expanding Israelite family – to unite the Egyptians, and bring them together under his rule. (Exodus 1:8-10) After all, the rest of the Egyptians hadn’t even noticed – he had to draw their attention to the ‘problem’. There’s nothing to suggest the Israelites were making a nuisance of themselves, and weren’t they just in Goshen – one part of Egypt? Usefully tending the sheep – an occupation that the Egyptians thought beneath their dignity.
There’s a story Jesus told, that we call ‘The Good Samaritan’ (Luke 10:25-37). I think we should call it ‘The Good Neighbour’, because that was the point Jesus was making. The Samaritans were unpopular residents, living far too close to the Jews of his day, with bad theology, and all sorts of reasons to be seen as a ‘common enemy’. As fallen humans, we have such complex ways of trying to manipulate each other, while Jesus calls us to ‘love our neighbour’ – whoever that neighbour might be.
We have to be very careful about how our own thinking can be manipulated by others too. At the moment in the UK, disabled people are often being targeted as ‘benefit scroungers’, and ‘spongers on society’. They are being portrayed as a reason for the economic problems, and people in wheelchairs are facing unprecedented attacks. Unthinkable, but it’s happening.
Who are the people I look down on? Whilst I might not mistreat others in any obvious way, are there people I don’t give as much time or attention to as I should, or treat with an unjustified mistrust? Are there people I’m being encouraged to disregard? Are there people I don’t love as my neighbour, as Jesus commanded?