Faith

Refugees

Matthew 25:34-37.
“Come, you that are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.”

Those are the words of Jesus.

Isaiah 58:6-9.
“Is not this the fast that I choose:
to loose the bonds of injustice,
to undo the thongs of the yoke,
to let the oppressed go free,
and to break every yoke?
Is it not to share your bread with the hungry,
and bring the homeless poor into your house;
when you see the naked, to cover them,
and not to hide yourself from your own kin?
Then your light shall break forth like the dawn,
and your healing shall spring up quickly;
your vindicator shall go before you,
the glory of the Lord shall be your rear guard.
Then you shall call, and the Lord will answer;
you shall cry for help, and he will say, Here I am.”

Those are the words of Isaiah.

Refugees. It’s hard to imagine that this is a polarizing topic among Christians.   But it is.  Some of my Facebook friends — who practice Christianity — claim that this ban on refugees is right and within the bounds of Christian theology and life practice.  Elders, leaders, silent pulpits.

The issue for the American Christian (is that even a category, sadly it is?) is that we don’t trust God.  We won’t speak out on behalf of those who are escaping the very terror that we are trying end. The refugees are the people from Mosul and Aleppo and countless other places where the war on terror is being intensely fought.  We are willing to fight over there, but we are not willing to accept a minuscule risk to our safety here to welcome them? The people who are well vetted, and who have suffered so much to get the chance to come here, we abandon them at the last minute because…? Jesus tells us so?  Huh

Hebrews 13:1-4.
“Let mutual love continue. Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by doing that some have entertained angels without knowing it. Remember those who are in prison, as though you were in prison with them; those who are being tortured, as though you yourselves were being tortured.”

We have the opportunity to rescue, help, and bless some of the world’s most oppressed — women, children, families. To be the light of the world.  To show these oppressed the Love of God.  That’s right, to open our hearts and to pour out on these people the love of God which we believe is greater than anything else.  Any nationality.  Any creed.  Any nationalistic, narrowly focused, expression of what’s mine is mine.

All this past week I have read and seen the stories of those who have been turned away at our borders.  I have carried the grief and embarrassment of what our country has done and the vocal silence of Christians, especially conservative evangelicals.  If you, as a Christian persist in telling the most vulnerable to go away, then what are we to make of Jesus’ words?  Of Isaiah’s prophesy?

I was talking with a colleague this week about the craziness in the world.  Our conversation drifted to the refugee situation.  I told her I am a Christian.  We had been very serious in our conversation.  And she simply stopped talking and looked at me.  Silent.  Waiting.

I told her I do not support the US ban on refugees.  It is wrong.  It does not show the love of God.  It does not risk helping the poor and destitute regardless of my circumstances. And I said, if other Christians disagree, well then, on this issue I will say this: You are a hypocrite.

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Faith

A Monastery. An Incarnation.

Up until I was 14, my family lived outside of Washington, DC. On Christmas Eve, we would go to the midnight mass at the Franciscan Monastery in Washington. It was all of these things — quiet, holy, beautiful, somber, peaceful, uplifting, light, dark, simple, complicated. Full of ritual. Full of yearning. Full of hope. And full of a sense that this baby, Jesus, was someone different than the rest. So as a boy of 8 or 10 I thought of this baby Jesus as strangely the same and yet strangely different and yet supremely important in an intangible way in the midst of middle-class, suburban DC. My parents divorced, I moved away.

The Christmas mass at the monastery was the blending together of heaven and earth. A celebration of the moment the worlds collided and heaven restated its part in the world. The incarnation. Indeed, God becoming man. And so Jesus came to be with us. But why? Because. Because God would not simply be a distant, all-powerful being that would receive the accolades of His people in temples and ritual and priestly orders.

You see, God wishes that no person should be His enemy. Yet in desiring that no person should be His enemy, he became a person so that he could dwell with us, be us, show us, love us in the flesh, and be for us what we could not be ourselves — perfect love. He became us. He became one of the beings who were, in fact, His enemy.

From the beginning, God walked with His people in the Garden. And He would return to dwell with the people he intended all along to be with. And yes, if Christ became Man, it is because He wanted to. Not because He had to.

We ourselves, and all the part of the world we encounter, decide if we can accept this presence, can decide if we will allow it to consecrate our being, and can move among people as if Christ were here. This is the great invitation to each person and for us to contemplate and live out. God with us. We live like this because we want to. Not because we have to.

If we believe in the Incarnation of the Son of God, there should be no one on earth — not a single person, not a religious affiliation, not a political view, not a racial identification, not a gender orientation, not an economic class, not a educational background — in whom we are not prepared to see, in deep transformative and holy ways, the mystery, the presence of Christ. We can choose to accept others as part of this created world in which God dwells, or we can choose to ignore the hidden, encompassing beauty of God being with us.

Immanuel.

God with us.

Great joy is in seeing Christ in everyone.

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Faith

Let’s Destroy ISIS

“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” Matthew 5.

As a Christian, I admit that the my ideal response to my enemies is to love them, just as Jesus says.  In the current climate of the ISIS situation, where Americans are about to bomb and kill militants, is aggression the proper Christian response?  One pastor I heard on the radio said, “Yes, it is our duty as Christians to stand up for righteousness, and destroy them.”  I wonder where his fervor was in 1994 when over 500,000 (and possibly a million) Rwandans were killed in a 100 day period?

I am an American, and inside of me there is a desire to see America prosper.  But what I have read and studied of Jesus’ words perplex me when people are so adamant that killing others is the proper Christian response. In what context is love being  expressed towards an enemy by dropping a bomb?  I see the benefit to myself — fewer bad guys — but where is loving the enemy fulfilled?

In Matthew 4 we see that Jesus is tempted by Satan to become the ruler of the kingdoms of the Earth.  But Jesus rebukes him, and orders Satan away.  And as the story unfolds, Jesus is challenged time and again to be the King people expect — one of political and military power who would restore Israel to it’s place of prominence. Throughout the Gospel narrative, Jesus rejects this viewpoint, and asserts that he is going to suffer and die.

If, as the author of Hebrews 1:3 says, Jesus is “the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word”  then what is our response to evil?  Did Jesus seize political and military power? Did he violently oppose those who sought his death? Did he say that the greatest commandment is to look after self and family, then close friends and community, and by all measures protect yourself with weapons both small and large? And hence, destroy ISIS?

In my faith walk there is almost nothing more difficult to comprehend in terms of a practical response to a threat to my security and those around me.  But what I read and see through the New Testament is that Jesus spoke seemingly impossible truth: love your enemies.  And how do we do that?  He showed us: two wooden beams and three spikes.

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