‘Duty of care’?

Post Christmas I am catching up with my reading and was stimulated by this article which compares the principles of law with those of the parable Luke 10: 25-37 . Enjoy and be encouraged and challenged in the way of love.

Firstly, the parable casts a much wider net as to “who is my neighbour”. It is not restricted to those with whom I have some sort of relationship. Rather, the parable pushes the concept of neighbour to those in distress whether I know them or not. The parable clearly makes the point: my neighbour is someone so wholly unconnected with me that it seems inconceivable that I would have anything to do with them.

Secondly, the parable poses a radial challenge to assist those in need of help. The parable quite clearly states that, as neighbour, one cannot walk pass those in need of assistance. There is a radical duty to get involved.

The parable sets out a ‘duty’ which is significantly greater than the requirements of the law. The law says, ‘Don’t hurt your neighbour’; the parable says, ‘Help your neighbour’.

The law says, ‘My neighbour is someone who may be affected by my actions’; the parable says, ‘My neighbour is anyone in distress, no matter how unconnected they may be from me’.

According to the modern law of negligence, the priest and the Levite did not do anything wrong. (At law there is no duty on anyone to go to the assistance of someone in distress). In her address, Justice White referred to a statement by the Foundation’s patron, Sir William Deane, in another negligence case. Sir William stated:

“The common law duty to a ‘neighbour’ has, however, scant in common with its New Testament equivalent: both priest and Levite ensured performance of any common law duty of care to the stricken traveller when, by crossing to the other side of the road, they avoided any risk of throwing up dust in his wounds”.

What is clear from the parable is that a follower of Jesus will need to live to a much higher duty of care than that required by the law. A follower has a positive duty to show compassion and help those in distress.

Full article, Duty of Care: the Law and the Parable.

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