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

3 06 2016

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.”