It's Australia Day today. The ads are on, telling me to cook lamb on the barbie. The flags are flying on cars and houses. The TV is drenched with images of people at the beach, wrapped in flag towels, smeared in sunscreen and laughing. It all looks wonderful and draws us in to be proud Aussies.
Except I'm not and here's why.
Mostly I'm just not a patriot of any kind. Nations are artificial constructs. We've drawn invisible lines across the ground to separate Us from Them, to mark the edge of Our Stuff and say that if They come across the line We will use violence to send Them back.
The revolutionary truth that opposes all this is in the gospel. Jesus is asked which are the greatest commandments and replies with, "Love the Lord your God" and "Love your neighbour as yourself." His interlocutor immediately asks, "And who is my neighbour?" It was a topical question amongst other rabbis of the day and Jesus answers it with the parable of the Samaritan. In the parable it is one of Them who goes out of his way to help one of Us who was in need. Jesus' command is that his disciples should go and do the same.
Jesus' definition of a neighbour goes beyond national and ethnic boundaries. These boundaries are simply irrelevant to the love of Christ.
When I think about Australia Day I'm reminded of this parable. I'm reminded that although we can enjoy life in Australia we also have the command of Jesus to love our neighbour wherever they may be found, and that the power of this love is greater than the powers that try to divide Us from Them.