Jesus once told a story that we have come to know as the parable of the "Good Samaritan". In it he describes the response of two religious leaders when they came across a man lying by the side of the road, naked and half dead, after being beaten and robbed by a bunch of thugs.
Both the priest and the Levite saw this man in pain and need and chose to ignore him. They gathered their skirts around them, crossed to the other side of the road, and walked on as if fearing they would be contaminated by the man's need.
Don't stop. Don't help. God forbid we should get involved!
These religious leaders were far too busy doing important things for God to stop and help a brother in pain. Their celebrated religious work took priority over the distress of this unimportant nobody.
And anyway, it was probably his own fault that he was in such dire straits in the first place. In all likelihood, he'd brought his misfortune on himself!
Finally, down that same road came another 'nobody'. Wrong country. Wrong religion. Not important!
And it was this man who displayed human decency. The one who stopped; who cared; who showed mercy; who acted on behalf of the one suffering; who brought comfort and healing.
He was the one who demonstrated love!
Sadly, it seems the more things change, the more they stay the same.
Because the religious leaders are still leaving people bleeding on the side of the road. They are still ignoring the pleas for help and support from those lying bleeding by the roadside. They are still too busy congratulating themselves on their important work to take a stand for what is right and just.
What's even worse, they are often the ones inflicting the wounds. And none of their fellow leaders seem to see anything wrong in that!
So it is still the nobodies - those from the wrong group, with the wrong spirituality - who are the ones patching up the wounded, bringing comfort and healing to those the religious leaders have left for dead.
And so I offer a challenge to those who see themselves as leaders of the faith: Will you "go and do likewise" as Jesus instructed - will you actually love your neighbour and not just talk about it?
Or will you continue to draw your skirts around you, keep busy with your important religious duties and refuse to meet the need?