America–land of the fearful, home of the no-longer-brave

fear[1]I want to talk about fear. About how fear is robbing America of its greatness and its destiny. And about how to find our courage again.

We have become a nation of panicky, terrified, paralyzed wimps. We’re so afraid that our confident, well-adjusted, highly educated children will lose their job to a Latino man struggling to provide for his starving children that we want to build a wall to keep our affluence in and keep others’ suffering out. Why not use those several billion dollars to help build the Mexican economy so people don’t resort to the desperate act of risking their lives to cross our border illegally? Whatever happened to “Love your neighbor (country)”?

We’re so afraid of violence one day affecting us that sweet old grandmothers are buying guns to “protect themselves.”  Do we really think that putting guns into as many hands as possible is the best way to live a safe life? Whatever happened to “If you try to save your life, you’ll lose it; but if you lose it for my sake, you’ll find it”?

We’re so afraid of one terrorist sneaking in, we want to close our borders to all Middle Eastern refugees, and send them where exactly? Send these desert dwellers to the uninhabited frozen tundras of Canada—where at least their visa applications are accepted? Whatever happened to “I was hungry and you offered me food, I was a stranger and you welcomed me…”?

We’re so afraid of lawsuits that when we see a child crying in the park we refuse to pick him up, give him a hug, or sometimes even get involved at all. If anything, we’ll call a cop to come interrogate the child, who also being cautious not to touch him, will try to find his parents to come and get him. Mark 10:16 tells us that Jesus took the children in his arms, laid his hands on them, and blessed them. Whatever happened to “If you welcome a child in my name, you welcome me”?

We are in danger of becoming the priest and the Levite in the Good Samaritan story—dedicated, God-fearing people who saw someone in need, but refused to get involved.

We want a love that is safe, that has no element of risk involved, that won’t be misunderstood, that won’t come back later and cost us something, that is clean and sterile. Only one problem—that’s not loving others, it’s loving ourselves.

Meanwhile the people around us live messy lives, are often misunderstood, and take risks just to survive each day. They exhibit far more courage than we do.

America didn’t used to be like this. There was a time when the whole world looked to us as the nation ready to help the down-and-out. They flooded to our shores, and were met by Lady Liberty, on whose statue are engraved these words:

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.

We once carried the heart of God for the hurting: “Though you are poor or hungry or homeless or in prison or rejected or messy—My love is bigger than that.”

The Bible says that “perfect love casts out fear.” (I John 4:18) The Good Samaritan’s love was stronger than his cultural taboos, and gave him courage to help the very person who feared him.

Oh, that we would be filled with such a love of God that we could silence the whispering “What will people think?” and the “What if I get hurt?” and hear His Voice speaking: “How would Jesus love the person in front of me?”

Any coward can build a wall, point a gun, or turn their back and walk away. It takes true courage to risk loving at a personal cost. Following a Savior who was willing to lay His life down for even his enemies ought to stir us to open our arms as wide as His were opened.

May God give America the courage to once again say to the hurting of every age and color and nationality and religion and gender and social status and personal mess of a life—“Send these to me. My love is bigger than that.”

Published by Jim Baton

Jim Baton (pen name) has spent over 25 years living in the Muslim world, where he’s been involved in a variety of peace and reconciliation activities including interfaith dialogue, training elementary through university students in peace principles, and bringing Christians and Muslims together to pray. Jim's writing, speaking and teaching is helping Christians and Muslims build bridges of understanding, love and prayer both in Muslim nations and at home in America. His novels contain a depth of understanding regarding the roots of the Christian and Muslim conflict, how to bring healing to Abraham’s broken family, how to combat terrorism with non-violence and love, and how to become a true peacemaker.

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