16 September 2023

Love thy neighbours

Ivan Radford

A photo of Harold Bishop from Neighbours.
Picture: Jane Zhang/Amazon Freevee

Ivan Radford reflects on the return of Australian soap opera Neighbours to TV screens.

Neighbours. Everybody needs good neighbours... If you’re already humming along to those words, you’re not alone, as the Australian soap opera – and its theme tune – returns to our screens from 18 September. First airing in 1985, the series has followed the residents of Ramsay Street – in a fictional suburb of Melbourne, Australia – for more than 8,000 episodes. The show formally bid farewell last summer, prompting such an outpouring of emotion from audiences that Amazon stepped in to revive the show for its streaming platform Amazon Freevee.

What prompted such affection from people who might not have even watched the show in years? Because Neighbours, in its way, has become a good friend for many. Checking in daily with the cul-de-sac Down Under made the soap opera a routine presence in people’s lives, which helped foster a sense of community with Ramsay Street’s residents. At the same time, soap operas let audiences watch other people’s heightened problems from behind the safety of a screen. Nobody’s perfect, they remind us, within the security of a scheduled time slot.

But, of course, we can’t live our lives at a screen’s remove from each other – and we’re not meant to. Right back in Genesis 2:18, God said: ‘It is not good for the man to be alone.’ Humans are created to be in community, each one of us part of the body of Christ.

Paul reminds us that each part ‘should have equal concern for each other’ (1 Corinthians 12:25 and 26). He adds: ‘If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honoured, every part rejoices with it.’

A good neighbour, anyone will tell you, is kind, patient, caring and welcoming. As Christians, being a good neighbour is a natural outcome of living in God’s love. God is love and, in loving God, we are compelled to love others – and each other.

There is a harmony to that state of community, as we celebrate with and support each other through the highs and lows of life. We can be united even when we might disagree, being appreciative of each other’s differences. ‘With a little understanding,’ as the Neighbours theme tune puts it, ‘you can find the perfect blend.’

One of the soap opera’s most-loved characters is mild-mannered coffee shop owner Harold Bishop. Played by Ian Smith, Harold famously made a return in 1997, after five years of being missing, reappearing as a Salvation Army charity shop worker with amnesia. Grief and all manner of difficulties followed for Harold but, even after his memory returned, he ultimately transformed from a once-pompous figure to a gentle, forgiving and caring man, continuing to volunteer for the Army and play the tuba.

For many Neighbours fans, Harold is fondly remembered as the moral compass and heart of his community, and is perhaps the only representation of The Salvation Army they might have come across. Imagine how much more impactful a good neighbour in real life can be, as we, through God’s strength and grace, build community in our church and church in our communities. People should sense, and want to belong to, this united body of good friends and neighbours who are there for one another. Everybody needs that, don’t they?

Reflect and respond

  • Do people in your neighbourhood see you as a good friend and influence?
  • Matthew 18:20 says: ‘For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.’ How often do you acknowledge and welcome Jesus into your community?
  • How can you meet the needs of your neighbours this week?

Written by

A photo of Ivan Radford.

Ivan Radford

Managing Editor

Discover more