Category Archives: Immigration

At the U.S.- Mexico Border: Jesus’ response to crowds is compassion


“Then Jesus went about all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues, and proclaiming the good news of the kingdom and curing every disease and every sickness.  When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.  Then he said to his disciples, ‘The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few’…”

| Matthew 9.35-37, NRSV

In Matthew 9, Jesus’ sleeves are rolled up, healing a paralyzed man, stopping the would- be funeral procession of a young girl and the years’ long hemorrhaging of a woman, restoring sight to two blind men and giving voice to a man who was mute.  Still, the people and the requests keep coming.  The people are amazed but the Pharisees are suspicious (9.33-34).  The people look on in astonishment and the Pharisees roll their eyes.

If either of their responses influenced him, he didn’t show it.  Jesus continues to travel in order to teach and touch as many people as possible.  The needs are great but his compassion is greater.  One of him and lots of them, Jesus could have felt overwhelmed.  Fully aware of the limitations of his flesh, he could have been afraid or intimidated by the crowd size.  He could have backed away and backed out of any further commitment to them.

And they would have understood.  He has done a lot and more than any one they have ever seen.  More so, he didn’t have to do it.  They had been following him and now he is meeting them where they are, traveling to their cities, villages and places of worship.

***

I thought of this story after watching the images on the evening news of my brothers and sisters, including children who I now claim as my nieces and nephews, being teargassed.  Some looked at the crowd but not with compassion.  They didn’t see their needs but perhaps, what they have been told to fear.  Immigrants seeking asylum and a better life is now synonymous with criminals.  No background check, Trump says, “They are bringing drugs.  They are bringing crime.”

While some members of the crowd did rush the fence at the U.S.- Mexico border, the decision to punish everyone for the actions of a few was a poor one.  Have some compassion because they still have needs and the teargas burning their eyes doesn’t change that.  Instead, using force only increases the needs, which now include medical attention.

Jesus said there were not enough laborers but Trump is sending more soldiers.  They need grace not riot gear.  The response should be mercy not the military.  There is good work to be done here and part divine, Jesus says his two hands are not enough.  Still, he did more with his than we have done.  And if we are the hands and feet of Christ, then why aren’t we with him in the crowd teaching and touching?

Is it because we have something in our hands and not in our heart?

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Not even close


“The work of the Lord Jesus Christ on the cross was not only to bring us back into fellowship with God, but also into fellowship with one another.  Indeed, it cannot do one without the other.  If we have not been brought into vital fellowship with our brother, it is proof to that extent we have not been brought into vital fellowship with God.”

| Roy Hession

Daily news is breaking, dashing my soul against stone cold faces.  Hardened heart, I am not moved by the words on the screen.  Another day, another insult.  It means nothing now; there’s nothing to it.  Everybody can do it.  Leaders and followers, there’s no need to bother with truth or integrity or kindness.

Just let it rip!  My heart falls out.  My heart cries out.  Love!  I need a pick me up.

He lies about the caravan, that the threat is approaching us.  Instead, the danger is on the inside of us, closer than we want to admit.  Because it is easier to point the finger than to point out our prejudices, fears and ploys for power.  Bait and switch the subject.  Now, what were we talking about?  What are we talking about Christians when we call people ‘invaders’ of God’s earth?

Because where does God draw the line?  How do we know who’s in and who’s out?  I guess the plan of salvation is mere lip service.  You said it.  You’re saved; now, go away.

Saved but you can’t stay.  Please don’t move next door to me.  No, go back to where you belong though we are all God’s children.  We are family, limb- siblings, fellow members of the body of Christ.

We’re saved not from each other but ourselves.  Praise God!  We are saved but not protected from those people on earth, who don’t talk like us, who speak in other tongues.  And if we can’t say this while professing to be in relationship with God, then we are not even close.

We’re going to need a bigger heart

 

See the source imageDoes it feel tight in here or is it just me?  It feels like the walls are closing in, like fences are about to rain down on me, like bridges are being stolen in the middle of the night.  I’ve lost my place again.  Now where were we?

The distance between us and them is increasing and I don’t know how to make up the difference.  I don’t know how to make up for lost time spent chasing and pinning down lies.  Fear spreads quicker than truth.  On your mark, get set, here we go again.  I think that fear gets a head start.  So, we will need to do more than catch up and it is not enough to run alongside of it.  No, we must get ahead of fear or there is no point in moving at all.

But, I can’t just sit and do nothing.  I don’t know how to wait patiently.  I am trying to write down the directions to the progress we’ve made.  It’s a little cloudy because “we’ve come this far by faith.”  I don’t see why we would want to turn around.  I can’t go back now.  I have loved too many and for too long.

And when did the earth become a tight squeeze, a tight fit?  No room for you or me, him or her potentially?  God’s got the whole world in God’s hands but we can’t seem to find any room on the land.  Get out.  Stay out.  Keep out.

I can’t keep still.  I have to move closer.  They tell me, “Let’s just wait and see.  Let’s take things slowly.”  One step at a time, we are walking away from our shared humanity.  I can’t breathe.  I need to sit down.  Head between my legs, head in my hands, head between my legs, head in my hands…  I pray and cross my heart.  Lord, open my heart.  Amen.

Give me space and the time of day.  What year is this?  Because this feels old.  This division is old news.  I’ve read all about it before.  Ball up the paper and don’t recycle it.

This is a complete mess, a circle.  History is chasing me around.  I better not come around or come back or be here after sundown.  Darkness sets in our hearts.  It will all come to light but first it must break our hearts.  This is how the light gets in.  It must come from our hearts breaking.

Because this is more than I can bear.  I need more heart.  I need your heart to join with mine.  My sisters and brothers, we’re going to need a bigger heart.

Let my children go

See the source image

“Jesus loves the little children/ all the children of world…”

Children are being separated from their parents at America’s borders.  The most recent story is of a mother who was breastfeeding her daughter.  She is taken into custody and her mother is placed in handcuffs.  “Zero tolerance,” they say.  “We are just following the law,” they tell us.  But, these are laws that we choose to create and enforce, that we choose to believe are the right way to “protect our borders.”

Human beings are called “illegals” as if their very existence is somehow wrong and not the hands of those who bring division.  And politicians have put God’s hands in it.  Attorney General Jeff Sessions called for the Bible’s witness to testify on his behalf and I cringed.  He read from Romans chapter 13: “Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God” (13.1, NRSV).  This is not the first time that the Holy Scriptures has been twisted, bent out of shape to fit the will of America’s government.  See American slavery and segregation.

And it must be noted that he stops short of these words: “Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for whoever loves others has fulfilled the law.  The commandments, “You shall not commit adultery,” “You shall not murder,” “You shall not steal,” “You shall not covet,” and whatever other command there may be, are summed up in this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.”  Love does no harm to a neighbor. Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law” (13.8-10, NRSV).  Yes, love fulfills the law.

Because God’s law is not to be confused with Caesar’s order.  They are never synonymous and one does not support or maintain the other.  Just ask Moses.    In Exodus chapter nine, Pharaoh is commanded to let God’s people go.  In bondage and defenseless, God commands their release– or else.  I am praying for such a leader tonight and for ears to hear God who says, “Let my children go.”  Amen.

 

 

 

Sincere Love

Image result for i was a stranger and you welcomed me“The more genuine and the deeper our community becomes, the more will everything else between us recede, the more clearly and purely will Jesus Christ and his work become the one and only thing that is vital between us.  We have one another only through Christ, but through Christ we do have one another, wholly, and for all eternity.”

|Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Life Together|

The Apostle Paul said to the church at Rome, “Love must be sincere” (Romans 12.9).  And with that he names my frustration and validates my feelings.  These few words are worth examining in light of the Church’s response to the Charlottesville, Virginia terror attack, President Trump’s controversial pardoning of Sheriff Joe Arpaio and now, the current White House administration’s decision to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), throwing into question the fate of some 800,000 immigrants brought to America by their parents as children.

I hear Christians talk about love– love of country and love of neighbor.  But, choosing the former due to some patriotic duty does not ring true, especially when it is coupled with narratives of scarcity.  “They are taking our jobs.”  “If we let these “dreamers” in, more immigrants will come to our country expecting citizenship.  We need to put America first.”

But, Jesus said, “The first will be last.”

What I hear behind these conversations is that we have taken care of others long enough. We need to focus on our needs.  The health, safety and well- being of immigrants is not our problem.  They should have been born in America.  Nationalism or globalism, it is the new political divide.

But, Jesus said, “I was a stranger and you welcomed me.”  No paperwork. 

Even so, this is not what is being said.  Instead, there is talk of the constitutionality of DACA.  Persons argue that this is about the law.   They say, “We must do what is right in the eyes of the law.”  But, how do we look at ourselves in the mirror after this?  What of conscious or compassion?

This is not tough love; this is just tough.  “Seeking a better life, your parents brought you to America illegally as a child.  Tough.”  This is not Christ- like.

Search the Scriptures.  Jesus only kicked out the moneychangers and just from the temple (cf. Matthew 21.12-17).  He didn’t even ask Judas to leave the table until it was time to betray him (cf. John 13.21-30).  And when Jesus is crucified, he is the one outside of the city (cf. Hebrews 13.12).

Paul’s words suggest that love in Christian fellowship can be disingenuous and even deceptive.  So, we will need to say more clearly what we mean with regard to love.  Today’s decision regarding DACA requires that we move past superficial smiles and feigned cordiality in order to search our hearts.  Because “it is out of the abundance of the heart that the mouth speaks” (Luke 6.45, NRSV).  Because if we cannot see Jesus in the immigrant, then I wonder who we are looking at?  Because our actions should express sincere love.