In a society where there are so many negative influences on young people, where sadly we learn of abuse and violence seemingly daily, the compassion of street pastors resonates with young people.
And by witnessing your kindness they see the genuine cup of human kindness – a brighter, considerate, compassionate, carrying kindness – not one that is there to take advantage of them at a time of vulnerability.
I’m confident that young people whose lives are touched by street pastors can, and do, take that kindness and compassion with them in their life’s journey.
So, the influence of street pastors goes with a young person far beyond that chaotic contact on a Saturday night.
Now, I’m not a preacher, I’ve never spoken at a church service before. But I’m moved to say this: I recognise that in Jesus’s teaching, the neighbour is the one who acts. The Samaritan was a neighbour to the man in trouble. Love isn’t about prejudging who is in who is out; who is acceptable and who is not. Love is about action.
The Samaritan’s actions suggest the inner compulsion of a common humanity – he went over. He got physically involved. He chose to be unafraid of dirt and bloody wounds.
He gave of his own substance – wine and oil. He used his own animal to transport the man. He spent time with him at the inn. Possibly, he delayed his own journey. He gave generously of his own finance and even wrote a blank cheque to cover the man’s expenses.
Jesus ends up by telling his questioner to ‘Go and do likewise.’ Don’t be so hung up on religious laws and scruples that you neglect love. Rather, take your cue from this ‘lawless’ Samaritan.
We sometimes assume that incomers, empire builders and criminals must be different from the rest of us.
Jesus’ parable speaks to me and says: ‘Don’t judge or delineate, but love across limits; don’t be saddled by history, but act for salvation today.’
So, what, then, is my response?
Do I say, ‘My neighbour is a stranger,’ or ‘This stranger is my neighbour’?
I hope and pray that in all I do, it’s the latter.
This is an extract from an address given by Simon Hayes, Police and Crime Commissioner for Hampshire and the Isle of Wight, at the recent commissioning service of new street pastors in Winchester.