Thursday, November 19, 2015

But If I Have Not Love . . .

Awhile back, I was reading the prophets and what struck me was how whacked-out a group they were. You have Isaiah preaching naked in the streets and Hosea marrying a prostitute. But what I learned most from them was that social justice wasn't a political principal, it's a biblical one. Now it's been hijaked by modern politics, but the basis is rooted in God's concern for the poor, the broken, the sojourner, the orphan, the widow, the refugee. Social justice in the Old Testament always started with the internal act of repentance before God and then a call for the nation to do likewise and to take care of the least of these. The Psalmist writes in the seventy-second one in which, more like a prayer than a song, for God to help the king "judge your people with righteousness, and your poor with justice." Later he adds, "defend the cause of the poor of the people, give deliverance to the children of the needy, and him who has no helper." Wow! Shouldn't we be praying that for our leaders today? (I can't help but wonder if we spend more time complaining about them than praying for them anyway).

After the prophets, you think, "It can't get any crazier than them?" when out pops John the Baptist followed by Jesus, who really stirs up the mix with his Sermon on the Mount. Reading that recently, after the prophets, made me realize how far I am from Christ's call for his followers. Certainly this shift has been happening with my blog and I know that it will probably mean I lose people who have been reading it for some time now. It's not easy for me because I like being liked. That said . . .

The Syrian Refugees are all over the media. I know I will fall into the minority on this, but, here goes.

Someone I know in passing, another Christian, started a discussion with me on the subject of the refugees. It got heated (on his part, not mine).  He did not like my I simply stating that, "I cannot follow a savior who identified himself so completely with the poor, the outcast, and the forgotten if I am not willing to do the same myself."

At one point, he angrily asked me, "But I'll be you wouldn't take some of them in your home now, would you?" Sadly, he referred to the refugees as "those people" quite a bit. My answer surprised him, "Yes, yes I would."

"Really? Then you're more naive than I thought."

Probably so.

He paused before asking me, "And what would happen if you did take some in to your home and they killed you and your family?"

My answer shocked him even more, "Well, at least we would have died showing them the love of Christ."

Apparently not what he wanted to hear and, by the end, he stormed off with, "Hope you enjoy living under Sharia law then!"

I did not intend to anger him. I don't want to anger anyone now. I will admit, I don't have all the answers. But what I do know is that I am called to love the refugees because Jesus told me to. Yes, love can hurt - just look at Christ or even Martin Luther King, Jr. They gave their lives for love. There are missionaries all over the world who do the same. How then can we send missionaries to countries like Syria, where they could die, and then claim to be Christians and say, "We don't want those refugees here?"

And don't think those who aren't Christians aren't watching. A British newspaper, The Guardian, even wrote a piece on how politicians who like to reference the Bible are now promoting ignoring the vulnerable. Yet Jesus said the world will know his followers by their love. Can they see it in us?

Right now I'm reading a parenting book by Dr. Laura Markham entitled Peaceful Parent, Happy Kids in which she wrote, "Every choice we make, at its core, is a move towards either love or fear."  From choices I've made in my own life over the years, I know all too well how correct she is in this assessment. And this issue is no different.

There are those who argue against the refugees because they say, "We should be taking care of our poor first." I agree, but are we? And I have to ask myself, "Am I?" If I'm being honest, I have to painfully acknowledge, "No, I haven't. Not really." Still, I think many who offer up this argument are using it as an excuse and Christ has not called us to excuses.

So what's the real reason?

Are we basing our decisions from fear and security rather than the Bible? We have to remember that God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power, love and of sound mind. We must walk in the beauty, strength, and courage of the love of Christ.

When I think about the refugees, I can't help but think of the verse in Leviticus, "When a foreigner resides among you in your land, do not mistreat them. The foreigner residing among you must be treated as your native-born. Love them as yourself, for you were foreigners in Egypt" (19:33-34). Are we willing to do this? Are we striving to reach beyond race, culture, and religion to not only share the gospel but to be the gospel to these refugees in desperate need? Writing this, I am not judging others, but turning the microscope on my ownself and, through the lens of scripture, looking to see if I have properly aligned my life and my actions to the Bible and the savior I claim to follow.

The Bible demands that we not think only of ourselves, but to come to the end of ourselves for that is where we will come into communion with our Creator.  Afterall, when Jesus got up and read in the Synagogue, he read these words from Isaiah 61, "The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me to bring good news to the poor, he has sent me to bind the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives. . ." He comes to those "crushed in spirit" by the exile. He still wants to do this and do it through us. We are the whacked-out radicals he is calling now to step up. We are called to stand among the prophets, dreamers and visionaries of the Bible. The call to love is never and easy one, but it's an eternal one.

Am I up to this?


But God is.

So I will fumble and stumble my way into obedience. And I will try to be a light in the darkness of all this uncertainty.  Do I think this will be easy? Definitely not! This is not in my wheel-house - at all! But, if there's one thing the prophets and Christ have taught me is that it's never easy to love, but that, ultimately, suffering and all, love is always worth it.

Some really good articles on this subject at Christianity Today:

Love The Refugee With The Compassion Christ Has Shown You

A Church Welcome For The Tired, the Poor

(As a sidenote, for those who have been following my blog and don't like the shift in focus, it's been there since the beginning. From the start of this, I have always believed that orphan care is just one part of what it means to take care of the least of these).

"He defends the cause of the fatherless and the widow, and loves the foreigner residing among you, giving them food and clothing. And you are to love those who are foreigners, for you yourselves were foreigners in Egypt." Deuteronomy 10:18-19

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