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Tuesday, November 17, 2015

The Refuge and the refugee

Putting yourself first is antithetical to Christianity.  In what may be Jesus' most famous parable (Luke 10:25-37), He describes a man laying on the side of the dangerous road to Jerusalem,  left for dead, as a priest and a Levite walk by. They walked by because on this road,  people were known to pretend to be hurt so their friends lying in wait could take advantage of your distraction and rob and kill you. They walked by because contact with a dead body would prevent them from carrying out ceremonial duties.  They walked by because they were in a hurry.  To borrow the language of MLK, they walked by because they worried about what would happen to them if they stopped. 
In the great reversal,  a Good Samaritan (hated by the Jews for their racial mixture and religion,  think of it as the Good Half-Black Muslim in Arkansas) thought about not what would happen to him if he stopped,  but what would happen to the other man if he didn't. He risked his life helping him, bound up his wounds and carried him on the back of his donkey with him and gave the equivalent of $200 to an innkeeper to care for him, promising to pay any other expenses the man accrued when he returned.  He laid on the line life and possessions,  took the man close and saved him,  though the man could do nothing in return.  This is the model Jesus holds up for fulfilling the command to love our neighbor: dangerous, intimate,  messy loss without the opportunity fot profit. 
I would be remiss to not point out that Jesus is the true and better Good Samaritan, laying aside all of His riches in the heavens to come and lay down his life so those who asked him (believing He would save them when religion and ethicism passed by,  crying out in faith to his only hope) could be rescued,  healed,  clothed and carried to a place prepared for them.
I am not astute enough of a political observer to say how many refugees should be accepted from where or how they should be vetted (admittedly,  almost impossible in a world of anonymous online radicalization), but I am a pastor-theologian, disturbed by how few of the Christians responding to the refugee crisis seem to be distinctively Christian at all.
If your response treats self preservation as virtuous, it is not a Christian response.  If your response does not prioritize reaching these refugees (radical terrorists,  like Apostle Paul née Rabbi Saul, or not) with the love of God and the gospel of Jesus,  it is not a Christian response.
There are dangers in the other direction,  such as forgetting Romans 12 or Genesis 9:6, but that is not the mistake I see the Christians I know making.  Instead,  I see many who are Christians in word and deed when they are comfortable becoming pragmatists when things get difficult.  That is an integrity issue.
I have no delusions of changing your mind with these arguments. As I mentioned,  I don't have a particular policy to recommend or a process I think should be embraced.  I am just disturbed by an unChristlike attitude. People are afraid and that is powerful.  But I hope you consider Jesus,  whose perfect love casts out fear. I hope you are willing to ask yourself: if I didn't believe the gospel,  how would my response be different?  If it doesn't,  you have a problem. 
If you aren't a Christian and are put off by what you are seeing,  I hope you will ignore the foibles of Jesus' followers and see what Jesus stands for.  You are the man on the side of the road,  dying in sin and abandoned by every one who you thought you could count on. Inside you is the same capacity for evil that the Paris terrorists possessed,  just subdued by the benefits of your environment,  but creeping out in prejudices and moments of blind hate. The religious and the ethical pass you by when they see what you are,  but not Jesus or those who are rightly following Him. He gave Himself up so that if you admit you are have lived as a rebel against God and place your trust in the knowledge that Jesus died for you and rose again,  He will pluck you from death, heal you with His wounds and give you a place forever.  All you have to do is repent and believe.  Turn from your sin and trust.  Ask and pray. Why settle for imperfect imitations when Jesus is ready for you now?

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