My latest for the Longview News-Journal
So much is going on in our country and world right now. Tensions are high, names are being called and innocent people are caught in the middle. People are turning off the news for it is too grim, too painful, too sad. Social media has once again become a place of vigorous support and strong opposition. What we experienced during the long and painful political season has not gone away. No one is listening to the other side, frankly no one is listening period. If anything, people are digging their heels in deeper and standing their ground without giving their position a second thought. We hold to party lines and tweetable one liners that make ourselves feel good or superior but we are unwilling or unable to consider the other position or even question our own beliefs.
We as a nation need to find some commonality, some common ground to unite around. We have no greater allegiance than to God, no party, administration, ideology or cliché can ever undermine that.
The Church needs to be a voice of reason and truth, a place of refuge and sanctuary. Followers of Christ must return to the holy scriptures to draw out it’s ancient wisdom about loving neighbors and welcoming the stranger.
Politics and rhetoric will only get us so far and it is nowhere near where we need to be or even should be. As a Christian I am aware of the intersection of my faith and the world. It is hard to excuse certain actions based on my theology and understanding of the Gospel. As a follower of Christ, I am called to not only examine myself and my own understanding of God, Jesus, and the Spirit, but how those teachings, commands and ideals are being played out in the world. This type of examination is difficult because it might mean that we change our position on certain issues or even go against the status quo of our community or even our church.
There has been a lot of discussion about the ban imposed on seven countries by the President’s executive order. At the heart of this issue are those caught in the middle of escaping war torn areas. These refugees are trying to find a place of welcome, rest, comfort and peace. Their lives have been turned upside down by senseless and needless violence and millions of people have left everything behind so that they might merely survive.
As Christians, we know of a similar story. After the birth Jesus, Herod the King called for the death of all children two years and under. Mary, Joseph and Jesus fled their home, leaving behind everything they had and escaped to Egypt. In that single act, Jesus the Christ became a refugee.
Are we going to turn away mothers and fathers doing everything in their power to ensure that their children are safe? Ask any parent what they would do if faced with a similar situation and the resounding answer you would get would be “anything.” Those seeking refuge did not ask to be put into this situation. They did not ask for the homes to be bombed or their lives to be radically changed. All they ask is for compassion, shelter, grace, love and acceptance. What they are asking from us is the heart of the gospel.
We turn away Mary and Joseph all the time. Mary and Joseph come to us in the form of hungry children, refugees from war torn areas and families living paycheck to paycheck; to deny them denies Christ. While we might think that we would not be so cold or brash, to judge someone based on their country of origin, gender or immigration status means that we have decided to turn away the image of God. We metaphorically say “there is no room in the inn for you tonight.” Is there room today? Who are we turning away in the name of our religion or personal/political causes?
We have to see each other as the bearers of the image of God. This reflects the world in which God wants us to create. Christ taught that the most important and greatest commandment was to love God and to love every person just as much as you love your own self.
People are more than the product of their decisions, religion, country of origin or perceived sins. They are beautiful children of God who God loves just as much as God loves you and me. The coming of Christ into the world was the invading of the secular space and showing humanity that God’s love is real, God’s mercy is right and God’s grace is given to all people, in all places and at all times. Faithful Christians must reclaim this not just when it is convenient but at all times.
We might feel uncomfortable or scared thinking about “welcoming the stranger,” but what is scarier is letting fear overshadow love, letting the unknown overshadow grace, letting our anxieties stop us from sharing the love of Jesus Christ. There are no easy answers. This is tough and faithful work but it is the fulfillment of the most basic teachings of the Bible: love God and love your neighbor.
May we see past our preconceived notions and caricatures to see all of humanity as living, breathing, bearers of your divine image. No place of origin, nationality, belief system or status can ever change that fact.