There’s a large group of people heading towards our border, seeking shelter and a new home. As a friend helped me understand, we can’t process so many via our legal immigration system, so, unless we make drastic changes, there’s nothing we can do.
And let’s say we bend our rules a bit. What if we let them in and set up a compound of sorts, just within our border, providing food and shelter while we process these people. Can we handle such an influx? What about all the criminals and “known” terrorists in this caravan? And if we help them, wouldn’t that incite another caravan? Wouldn’t the poor and homeless of the world say, “Boom! Pack up, we’re heading to America!!”
We’d be screwed, right?
There’s a lot of anger here, especially from my Evangelical brothers and sisters. Listening to my camp, fielding their thoughts about all of this, I’d say that fear is driving the anger. Check out a few comments from my Facebook feed:
“Refugees don’t wave their nation’s flag while marching toward’s another country. Invaders do!”
“Massive caravan of illegals.. soon to be terrorists …headed toward the US.. knowingly going to break the law to enter the country.. with their children….WTF!!!!”
“No one has the right to march across our border, or into our homes, unannounced, uninvited, or unvetted. No one!”
“Heaven has a wall, a gate and a strict immigration policy. Hell has open borders. Let that sink in.”
Why are so many of the caravan’s future victims Evangelical Christians? What are we so afraid of? If there’s one cross-section of the American culture that has no business being swept away by fear and anger it’s us.
I became an Evangelical in the summer of ’93. Since then I’ve studied my bible, faithfully attended church, tried really hard to be a good person, voted republican more often than not, served, pastored, and lived in the south for most of my Christian life. I know this culture better than most.
Because of my allegiance to the Bible, and my study of God and religion, the first thing I think of when I see a mob of have-nothing’s approaching our border is this quote from Jesus in the book of Matthew in chapter 25:
35 For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36 I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’
37 “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink?38 When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39 When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’
40 “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’
Matthew, author of the above quote, was a tax collector – a Jewish man, hired by the Romans to collect taxes on their behalf. The Romans would collect a fee from people like Matthew, then give them carte blanche to collect whatever they wanted from their Jewish friends, neighbors, sometimes even family. If their friends didn’t pay up, the Romans would step in and throw down a beating, so most people held their noses and paid their taxes.
Tax collectors weren’t just seen as traitors and turncoats, they were thieves, stealing from their community – the worst of the worst.
As the story goes, Matthew gave up everything to follow Jesus. No more money. No more sweet crib, sweet clothes, food, wine, luxury, etc. He went from filthy rich to wandering the Judean countryside with a with a nut-bag, wanna-be Rabbi from the wrong side of the tracks who thought he was Messiah.
This caravan poses an equally threatening proposition. Our economy, our safety, our love of hearth and home are all at stake if we’re to accommodate such a mob of humanity, however that might look.
And if we say no?
That depends on who these people are. Jesus said they’re Him.
We say “invaders,” “liberal agenda,” “terrorists,” “criminals.” etc, trying our best to NOT see them as poor people in need of help. Our commander in chief serves us well here. But If this mob IS “Jesus,” we wouldn’t be the first group of Jesus followers in History to fail to recognize him because we’ve been so overthrown by fear and anger.
Jesus said “Love casts out fear,” and, by implication “Fear casts out love,” which is what I think is happening as this mob of Jesus’ heads for our doorstep.
I know, if you’re Evangelical, or a religious person well-versed in the study of God and religion, I’m making you (more) angry. I don’t want to do that. I want you to at least listen to how I’m feeling about all of this, or at least consider the idea that anger, most of the time, casts out wisdom.
Isn’t it better for us Jesus followers to err on the side of compassion, even if it might cost us dearly? Personally, I’d rather see injustice where none exists than fail to see it when it does, especially given the Christian world’s propensity to turn a blind eye to hurting people (think crusades, inquisition, slavery, holocaust).
We should move forward with bracing humility.
But fear and anger cast that out too.
In response to the anger that I know I’m stirring, Let me lay down some theology that nobody would argue.
God, at His whim, can make this country great, reduce it to ashes, and all points in between. We don’t make America great, God does. To believe that this mob poses a threat to our country is to fail to embrace the power and sovereignty of God.
But that truth raises a tough question. Do we just sit back and let God do everything by Himself? Don’t we have responsibilities? Doesn’t He expect us to be involved?
Deciding where our responsibility ends and God’s begins is difficult, especially in these heated political moments where people are running scared. When we feel threatened, we tend to step into God’s territory and take over.
That’s what’s happening here. We see a threat, a large one, fast approaching our border. Forget compassion, mercy. And don’t you dare talk about the sovereignty of God, or what Jesus said about needy people. If the Germans were invading, who would sit and let them overthrow our country? There are times when we have to fight, right? The safety, security, and overall greatness of our country is our responsibility, our mandate from God, though that’s nowhere to be found in our holy scriptures.
This isn’t war. If it was, I could understand the fear. War is when an armed group of people intend to overpower a nation by force, subdue it, subject it to their rule and authority, and kill whoever stands in their way.
But there’s a good chance that there are terrorists in this group. If I were a terrorist, I’d see this as an opportunity. Isn’t that sort of like war?
That’s why we need to vet any and all immigrants. There’s nothing un-Biblical or unholy about a vetting process, unless that process results in the wealthiest country in the world turning away a mob of people it’s supposed to be helping. The Biblical mandates regarding helpless, needy people are legion.
Beware the temptation to downgrade this mob’s situation, to change their status from “helpless” to “threat:” anything that will excuse us from our mandate to help, and salve our collective conscience.
I say build the camp.
We have more than enough money and resources to set up a compound of sorts, to let these people in, adjust our laws while we vet them – feed them, cloth them, heal them. If they are Jesus, there’s no other option.
And if the rest of the poor, homeless, unarmed Jesus’ of the world want to storm our borders as a result, so be it. I have every faith and confidence that God can guarantee safe passage for us all. No doubt it would be messy, risky, and a bit dangerous – that was the life of Jesus’ disciples, it’s to be ours, too. Believing the Bible while expecting our lives to be safe and predictable is outright silliness.
I love my Evangelical family. They’re good people who have helped, healed, prayed, and sometimes confronted – calling me on every occasion to be a better version of myself.
But this anger, and the fear that’s driving it is a far greater threat to the greatness of our country than the approaching caravan. It’s being exploited by people in power, and it’s a direct threat to our ability to do the stuff the Bible’s called us to do.