Remember when you were a little kid? Imagine playing soccer outside with your friends as the sounds of gunfire and explosions begin in your town. Confused, you see a nearby home catch fire. As your mom and dad run out to get you, you see a jeep screech to a halt across the street. Men with machineguns jump out and your best friend’s dad is shot in the chest. Miraculously, you and your family escape this apocalypse. Your town is devastated, crops are gone, and there’s no returning home, but you have your family and hope. With the aid of a kindly organization, you all make your way to the U.S., dreaming of a better and safer life … only to be torn away from your parents and sent to a separate detention camp. How would you feel? As you likely know, THIS was happening in America until this week, and might not have stopped yet. Regardless, even though the situation has changed, the principle remains and there is still work to be done. I’m convinced we can and should do better, so would like to share a few thoughts on that with you.
Whenever I think of the current refugee debate in America, words from a poem on the pedestal of the Statue of Liberty come to my mind: “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.” I just googled this to get the words right, only to discover there’s a lot more to the poem, so here it is (aside from “MOTHER OF EXILES”, emphasis is mine):
NOT like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
MOTHER OF EXILES. From her beacon-hand
Glows WORLD-WIDE welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.
“Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she
With silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send THESE, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”
These beautiful and inspiring words from poet Emma Lazarus name and invite us to live into the following Truth: Blessings are NOT for conquering or hoarding, but for spreading. Blessings are best shared. We get blessed to bless others. Blessings come in many forms, and when it comes to money, resources, and medicine the most blessed people in the history of ever are Americans. Now, since we “say” we’re a Christian nation, and I love Jesus and follow Christ as best I can, I’m going to come at this issue from that angle; and hopefully whether you believe in God or not you’ll see the beauty of our Creator’s heart, which we’re asked to reflect in the world.
In the book of Genesis we read how Abraham encounters God, wherein the Maker of universes tells him he’s going to bless him IMMENSELY. Why? The Divine blesses Abraham to bless ALL nations! Fast-forward in the story a bit, and we see Abraham’s descendants become the Israelites. Now, bring to mind the refugees from Syrah, Palestine, and elsewhere in the world today. Think of their impoverished, disoriented, and unwanted state. Multiple times that was Israel … enslaved, exiled, devastated.
With that in mind, over and over again in the Bible we hear God say some or all of what I’ll sum up as: Remember when you were hungry, hurting, and enslaved. Recall how I saved you and have brought you into a better life. When you see poor, widows, homeless, orphans, hungry, ALIENS (as in immigrants/refugees), and so on, care for them, feed them, heal them, and empower them to discover a better life wherein they can do the same. In truth, this sentiment is such an important message there are over THREE THOUSAND verses telling us to care for the poor, widows, orphans, and aliens, making it almost certainly the most repeated commandment.
Jesus sums up ALL the laws and every commandment with: Love God, and love your neighbor as you love yourself. When pressed to define who our “neighbor” is, Jesus tells a story making it clear “neighbor” is code for EVERYONE, especially our enemies and people we don’t like (it’s the story of the Good Samaritan).
Earlier this year, recognizing fear, division, and polarization is not only ruining America, but is threatening the soul of the Church, a group of Christian leaders gathered together and wrote “Reclaiming Jesus: A Confession of Faith in a Time of Crisis.” I believe one of their affirmations not only gets to the heart of what it means to be Christian, but what it means to be HUMAN:
WE BELIEVE how we treat the hungry, the thirsty, the naked, the stranger, the sick, and the prisoner is how we treat Christ himself. “Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me” (Matthew 25:40). God calls us to protect and seek justice for those who are poor and vulnerable, and our treatment of people who are “oppressed,” “strangers,” “outsiders,” or otherwise considered “marginal” is a test of our relationship to God, who made us all equal in divine dignity and love. Our proclamation of the lordship of Jesus Christ is at stake in our solidarity with the most vulnerable. If our gospel is not “good news to the poor,” it is not the gospel of Jesus Christ (Luke 4:18).
I think to myself: Why AREN’T we doing this? Better yet, why am I not doing this? Fear. At least that’s my hunch. Culture tells us to fear difference, others, loss of money, for our safety, and on and on it goes. Our country is RIFE with fear, as seen manifested by our divisions in politics, religions, ethnicities, nationalities, sexualities, and so on. Really and truly as Franklin Delano Roosevelt prophetically uttered: The “Only Thing We have to Fear is Fear Itself.”
I believe our path forward is Love, Unity, Understanding, and Togetherness, in which fear has NO place. May we day-by-day, moment-by-moment move beyond fear to a place of recognizing the common dignity, value, belonging, and goodness of EVERY person, wherein we freely give and receive our blessings in an economy of Love from “above”.
So, what do we do? Babies and kiddos were/are being torn from their parents, that’s just the tip of the iceberg of failures to love in our land, and I hope we can all agree, THIS is NOT okay! I think it depends on your blessings. Some of us have money, some time, some courage, some a gift for prayer, some a gift for protest, some for speaking up, and so on. Do what resonates with who you are and where you’re at in life. It could be calling and/or writing to governmental representatives. It could be joining (or even organizing) peaceful marches and protests. It could be regularly taking time to pray for the hurting refugees and our government. It could be using your voice to raise the volume on this problem via friends, social media, etc. It could be giving to a good cause such as:
What do you think? What blessing do you have to “pay it forward” with?
Grace and peace,