How Would Jesus Respond to the Travel Ban

2 02 2017

refugees-denied  Since President Trump issued the temporary travel ban against citizens from seven predominantly Muslim nations, there has been no end of controversy. Some foreign leaders have criticized it; others have supported it. Likewise, within America, many Christian leaders have joined in protests and petitions, while others have argued its merits.

What concerns me is the spirit behind these protests—are people truly concerned about the fate of refugees from Sudan or Yemen, or are they using this as an excuse to express their rejection of President Trump? Because if they’re truly stirred up by the needs of Muslim refugees, I’d like to know whether they’ve been doing anything constructive to help refugees before Trump came into office.

Through it all, I’ve asked myself over and over again, “How would Jesus respond?” Since I claim to follow Jesus, I want my response to align with his heart.

Jesus was often counter-cultural, never politically correct. But he reserved his few harsh rebukes for hypocritical religious leaders, not for political leaders. His breaking of cultural norms was always done in order to show love to hurting individuals. He healed the sick on the Sabbath; he didn’t condemn the woman caught in adultery; he asked for water from a despised Samaritan; he healed the servant of a Roman oppressor; he partied with tax collectors and sinners.

Jesus never joined other Jews who were protesting the government or planning violent attacks against it. The closest he got to a protest was driving the money changers out of God’s temple—again, dealing with his own religion gone wrong.

Does that mean I don’t support protests of government policies? I affirm the right to free speech that Americans hold dear, and I believe that peaceful protests can be an effective way to bring attention to issues of justice. I have joined in peaceful protests before, and will do so again. But I’ve done so not to represent Jesus’ heart of love necessarily, but more to support a community and an ideal that I believe in.

Now back to the original question, how would Jesus respond to the travel ban? In my heart, I am convinced that Jesus would respond by loving people, and no government restrictions or cultural controversies would stop his love.

So how about those of us who follow Jesus? How many of us would take the time to march in protest, or circulate a petition, or gripe on Facebook, in defense of these Muslim nations seemingly treated unjustly, but have never taken the time to get to know the Muslims who live in our own neighborhoods, or whose kids go to school with our kids? Which shows more love—marching alongside angry protestors, or walking alongside the Muslim children in our neighborhood to make sure they get from the bus stop to their homes safely? Shouting slogans against a government policy, or whispering words of comfort to a Muslim student unable to return home to her family during Ramadan? Perhaps some of us are doing both, and I commend you. But if we have time to invest in just one type of response, what would Jesus do?

What about those refugees we refuse to allow into our borders? There are many reputable agencies helping Syrian refugees that need our donations. One of my friends even volunteered at a refugee camp in Jordan for a short time. The travel ban neither eliminates our options to serve refugees, nor our responsibility.

The greatest need of the Muslim refugees is not entry to America. They need food and shelter. They need a chance to work and provide for their families. They need people to come alongside them and help them get back on their feet. They need our prayers, our donations and our love.

As the eyes of the world look toward America’s government and criticize its leadership in this global refugee crisis, what an opportunity for the Christians of America to model a different spirit, laying down our lives to love others. By doing this we will represent our nation well, but more importantly, represent the heart of our Savior well.

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Love Excludes Prejudice

4 10 2015

mosque protest

 

There are anti-Islam protests—some armed—planned across America this Sunday, October 10th. Please take a moment to read about it here: http://imagine2050.newcomm.org/2015/09/29/anti-muslim-protests-some-armed-planned-for-at-least-20-sites-across-the-country/

How does that article make you feel? Is it possible to be a patriot and yet love your neighbor too?

This Sunday my wife and I enjoyed a wonderful church service in Indonesia, specifically for the poor, the prostitutes, and the mentally insane. About 60 people, or half the congregation, came from this last group. These were women who used to wander the streets naked, or were rejected by their families because they had become unable to function in the world. Some of them still don’t speak at all. But they were welcome at this special church service for them.

I noticed the worship band was made up of good-looking, smartly dressed young people who were there to serve others. As they sang, everyone was invited to dance to the music, which many of the crazy people seemed to really enjoy. Those able to speak were invited to take the stage and share how God had answered their prayers. It was a beautiful, joyful moment in the week when everyone’s individual problems could be put aside to belong to God’s family together.

The next morning I was reading the Passion translation of the Bible, and came across this heading to James chapter 2: The Royal Law of Love Excludes Prejudice. Verses 8-9 instruct us: Your calling is to fulfill the royal law of love as given to us in this Scripture: “You must love and value your neighbor as you love and value yourself!” For keeping this law is the noble way to live. But when you show prejudice you commit sin and you violate this royal law of love!

Here James is quoting both Moses and Jesus. He reminds us that following Jesus doesn’t mean there is no law—the Law of Love has become our “noble way to live.”

This love excludes all forms of prejudice. Whether it’s telling a black person to sit in the back of the bus, or giving a woman lower wages than a man for the same job, or refusing to sell your wedding cakes to a homosexual, or protesting the building of a mosque/church/any other house of worship in your community, or talking about any group of people with negative stereotypes—there is no room in the Royal Law of Love for any kind of prejudice.

The offering this church took from the poor and crazy I doubt would cover the cost of electricity for their sound system or their bread and juice for communion. Did they really need a full worship band with five vocalists and two dancers? After all, half the congregation might go home and immediately forget everything that happened. This church gave their best for the poor just as they probably had given in an earlier service that morning for the rich.

So I ask the American Christians reading this blog—is protesting at Islamic Centers across the nation the best we can give our Muslim neighbors? If not, what could we give them that shows our love? I’m talking about showing the same kind of love if those were our church members being victimized by hate? If that protest was outside our church, instead of our neighbor’s house of worship, what would we do?

One of the great challenges of being a peacemaker is loving all sides of an issue—loving the victimized Muslim neighbor, and loving the protesters shouting their hate at the same time. For those of you living in one of the targeted cities, I encourage you to ask God for your own creative way to fight prejudice with the Royal Law of Love.

“For keeping this law is the noble way to live.”