"What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters compared to what lies within us." -Emerson

Sunday, January 29, 2017

On sobbing in Walmart and the Executive Order on Refugees...

(My kids and a few refugee friends playing together a few years ago)
This afternoon, I sat at my computer and began to craft a pretty intense rebuttal to all the arguments being tossed around about the Executive Order issued that has halted the US Refugee Admission Program. Reasons why it matters that our current administration has put a stop on refugee resettlement for the next few months. Reasons why it matters that his executive order will be cutting the numbers of refugees allowed to rebuild their lived in this country in half. Reasons why these actions come from unfounded fears and with no empirical evidence to support them. Statistics and resources from reputable sources who are actually actively engaged in refugee resettlement instead of merely slanted news source. I’ve laid this argument out time and time again with facts in other writings, but I was going to try to do it again.  But, then I had to step away from writing to go don a pretend happy face and do some church stuff, with intentions to come home after and pick up right where I left off.

However after all that, I found myself sitting late at night in the parking lot of Walmart sobbing uncontrollably on the phone with my mom, in a way that I have never really cried before. It was almost visceral. I managed to somehow get it together and head inside, only to find myself sobbing in the middle of the frozen food section. At Walmart. At 9:30pm. And I started to pray and asked God what in the world was going on with me and why was I so upset and immediately, the words of a song came to mind:

Heal my heart and make it clean, open up my eyes to the things unseen, Show me how to love like you have loved me, Break my heart for what breaks you, everything I am for your kingdom cause, As I walk from earth into eternity. (Hosanna, Hillsong)

It may not seem significant that those words popped into my mind the exact moment I was having an emotional breakdown in the Walmart, but to me, it was. Because, you see, I have the pages of prayer journal after prayer journal of those lyrics as the cry of my heart, literally written verbatim in the form of a prayer to my God.

My weeping wasn’t the result of the fact that I’ve been exhaustingly trying to explain the facts on this situation and why it should matter to Christians. Why we as believers should be outraged and vocal on this issue. It wasn’t because of the arguments erupting on Facebook and comments on my posts and seeing the beliefs of my friends play out on social media. It wasn’t because I’ve felt very lonely and raw the last 24 hours as I’ve tried to speak up for the poor and defenseless. It wasn’t even because the US Refugee Program is being threatened in such a profound way. It’s because God was answering my prayer. My heart is absolutely breaking, shattering for what breaks His. And one of the things that breaks His is when His children act out of fear, aligning themselves more so with a political orientation than a heavenly one. And so, He told me to write. My heart has no intention of shaming any fellow sister or brother in Christ. My prayer is that through the power of the Holy Spirit and the word of God that is sharper than any sword or tongue or even, pen, I can perhaps be used to be a tool of conviction for any Christian who is in support of the current restrictions on refugee resettlement in America.

Here’s the thing. In our lives, living in this world, being in it, yet not of it, we are going to face times when we have to decide what systems of belief supersede other systems of beliefs when they are in conflict. Many Christians are spouting off rhetoric and arguments and logic that doesn’t align with their confession of faith in the life, death, and resurrection of Christ, but rather, in their belief and alignment with a political party. Stop. You, sister and brother in Jesus, are not called to follow a political party. You are called to follow Jesus Christ.

Let’s ask the most important question in this argument for those who believe in Jesus Christ as the Messiah, where would Jesus land here when it comes to refugees?

Honestly, the amount of scripture that shows God is wholeheartedly about followers of Him, caring for the persecuted and marginalized of this world, is abundant. In fact, it’s pretty much the whole point of the whole Bible. Remember this exchange Jesus had?

            28 One of the teachers of the law came and heard them debating. Noticing that Jesus had given them a good answer, he asked him, “Of all the commandments, which is the most important?”
29 “The most important one,” answered Jesus, “is this: ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one.[e] 30 Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’[f] 31 The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’[g] There is no commandment greater than these.”
32 “Well said, teacher,” the man replied. “You are right in saying that God is one and there is no other but him. 33 To love him with all your heart, with all your understanding and with all your strength, and to love your neighbor as yourself is more important than all burnt offerings and sacrifices.” 34 When Jesus saw that he had answered wisely, he said to him, “You are not far from the kingdom of God.” And from then on no one dared ask him any more questions.”

The question of who is my neighbor is one that Jesus addresses with the story of the Good Samaritan (see Luke 10:25-37). Our neighbors, according to Christ, are beyond our cultural and national boundaries. It’s beyond religious bounds. It’s everyone.

So, Jesus tells you and me, we have to love everyone. Now, insert your arguments on how we can love from afar, but based on Jesus’ example, love binds up wounds in the flesh.

Jesus talks about loving the least of our brothers and sisters in Christ (Matthew 25:31-46). He even says some are going to call out his name, proclaiming that they are his followers, but at the day of judgement, he is going to say, I never knew you based on the fact they never cared for the hungry, the thirsty, the stranger.

Some will argue, but we aren’t just admitting brothers and sisters in Christ into this country, we could potentially admit “enemies” into our midst (an argument that doesn’t take into account the facts and how long the US refugee program and its track record in terms of admitting the most vulnerable, persecuted people from the most war torn and broken regions of the world, without incident). Jesus had something to say about that as well:
27 “But to you who are listening I say: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, 28 bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. 29 If someone slaps you on one cheek, turn to them the other also. If someone takes your coat, do not withhold your shirt from them. 30 Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back. 31 Do to others as you would have them do to you.
32 “If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners love those who love them. 33 And if you do good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners do that. 34 And if you lend to those from whom you expect repayment, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, expecting to be repaid in full. 35 But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. 36 Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful. (Luke 6:27-36)

“If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.e21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. (Romans 12:20-21)

He also left each of us with a charge:

19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.

The truth is most of us aren’t going hopping on a plane anytime soon to all nations and make disciples, but God in his ever-loving kindness and sovereignty has presented us as Christians in America a way for the nations to come to us. Refugees are the most vulnerable, most abused and most terrorized in our world, and they are coming here to find hope. Guess what Christian? Your Jesus just gave you the nations on a silver platter, a way for you to show them His love through your attitudes and actions towards people who are yearning for hope and yet, most of you are knocking the plate out of His hand in the name of fear.

Jesus really isn’t about making your life all nice and comfortable, in case you haven’t gathered that yet. He didn’t pour out his life so you could have a sanitized existence, free from any risk for His glory. He’s not about that life. He said a life chasing after Him with all you’ve got, is only going to come from denying yourself at every turn, from laying down your life for the gospel. There is a cost in us doing all the things He called us to. It’s going to take us pouring out our lives for things so much bigger than our comfort, our rights, and our “perceived” false sense of safety and security.

My friend, if your political leanings tell you that this move by the President of the United States is an acceptable one, I pray that you will let your leanings towards the teachings of Christ to supersede them. I pray you won’t follow in the exaggerated fears of your fellow Americans brought on by the confusion and misinformation in the war of information being played out in the media and Facebook. I pray you won’t take a soundbite you’ve heard and extrapolate it as a backing for why this is ok and acceptable. I know this issue can be confusing with so many conflicting reports and data, but Jesus isn’t one bit confusing on where you should stand.

The world is watching and they are chomping at the bit to label us as hypocrites and based on some of the things I’ve seen, they aren’t missing the mark in terms of our American Christianity in how we view the sanctity of life.

The prophet Isaiah faced the same challenge in his day, to tell the people of God that their actions and beliefs were not in agreement with their professed faith. Their religiosity, a checklist of to do’s instead of a heart bent on Him, was turning them into hypocrites. They had forced others to pay debts that were unfair and then they would come before God, ready to go through the motions of their religion. Isaiah recorded the words of God to his spiritual brothers and sisters:

“Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen: to loose the chains of injustice
    and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke? Is it not to share your food with the hungry and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter—when you see the naked, to clothe them, and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?
Then your light will break forth like the dawn, and your healing will quickly appear; then your righteousness[a] will go before you, and the glory of the Lord will be your rear guard. Then you will call, and the Lord will answer; you will cry for help, and he will say: Here am I.
“If you do away with the yoke of oppression, with the pointing finger and malicious talk, 10 and if you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry and satisfy the needs of the oppressed, then your light will rise in the darkness, and your night will become like the noonday.11 The Lord will guide you always; he will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land and will strengthen your frame.You will be like a well-watered garden, like a spring whose waters never fail. 12 Your people will rebuild the ancient ruins and will raise up the age-old foundations; you will be called Repairer of Broken Walls, Restorer of Streets with Dwellings. (Isaiah 58:6-12)

Oh, that we may live in this kind of obedience! May we be a people who loosen the chains of injustice, whether the hands shackled look like ours or not. May we be agents willing to set the oppressed free, whether they are from America or not. May we provide the poor wanderer with shelter, no matter what religion they profess. May we become repairers of the broken walls.

Fear not, sister or brother in Christ. It’s going to cost us everything we have to live this out. But, your God is with you every step of the way.

So, you can choose to label those who are speaking out against this action as “bleeding liberals.” You can repost articles attempting to support the president's actions. You can downplay the implications of this move by our government and justify it. You can label this all a gross overreaction. But, you cannot do those things in the name of Jesus.

Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute.
Speak up and judge fairly;
defend the rights of the poor and needy.

­Proverbs 31:8-9

Christian, your voice should be the loudest in this fight.

And lest you wonder if “destitute, poor, and needy” applies to refugees:

-21.3 million people have fled violence and war with a fear for their lives from their country of origin due to persecution based on their race, religion, ethnicity or political party (this doesn’t include the other 40 plus million who are currently displaced due to war within their countries). Of those, more than half are under the age of 18. Mamas, the only reason your child isn’t included in this statistic is because of where you had the privilege of being born. These are our children.

- Syria is the current top producer of the world’s greatest refugee population. Over 4 million refugees, the US only accepted 11,000. Pull out a calculator. Figure out that percentage.

- The current order threatens to cut the refugee admission program in half. Do some math. The past number of refugees that were resettled in America: 110,000. Under this order, 50,000. Divide that by the 21.3 million.

-Refugees are a vulnerable target for human and sex trafficking.

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