To my evangelical brothers and sisters, when did we start demonizing the immigrants and refugees? When did we stop seeing them as people and deem their lament over separated families and violent homelands insignificant? When did our allegiance to our political parties outweigh our allegiance to Jesus? When did we become the hypocrites who praise the God of love in church, who discuss forgiveness at our Bible studies, who read a Bible about the Lord who redeemed all people, and then sit around a table and speak words of hate against those who are fleeing from violence, who don’t speak our language, who don’t have as much money as we do?
Why is it that as our American culture has rejected and alienated entire groups of people (Muslims, hispanics, gays, the impoverished), we aren’t hearing a different story in our churches? When did we forget that Jesus was a homeless, Jewish refugee (Isaiah 53:2-5 & Matthew 2:13-15)? When did our fear of the unfamiliar, our fear of losing our personal comfort, become more important than Jesus’ commands to love our neighbors, our enemies, the foreigner?
Is it possible that Jesus is sitting with the family who is curled up on the dirt floor of their home as bombs are threatening to blow them all to pieces? Is it possible that Jesus is embracing the nine-year-old as he weeps in longing for a dad that is stuck on the other side of a manmade wall? Is it possible that Jesus is keeping warm the homeless man curled in a sleeping bag under the overpass because brokenness that led to addictions or mental illness has kept him out of a job? Is it possible that Jesus isn’t sitting on the couch next to us in our comfortable homes because we have invited in our fear and hatred of others instead of him? Is it possible that Jesus isn’t abiding with us because he said he would be with the poor and the brokenhearted and we’ve decided to walk away from them?
Brothers and sisters, when did it become the politician’s job to clothe the poor, to comfort the brokenhearted, to set the captives free? Was this duty, this honor, this task not given to us, the Church:
“The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me,
because the Lord has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
to proclaim freedom for the captives
and release from darkness for the prisoners,
2 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor
and the day of vengeance of our God,
to comfort all who mourn,
3 and provide for those who grieve in Zion—
to bestow on them a crown of beauty
instead of ashes,
the oil of joy
instead of mourning,
and a garment of praise
instead of a spirit of despair.
They will be called oaks of righteousness,
a planting of the Lord
for the display of his splendor.”
– Isaiah 61:1 – 3
Have we pursued the Sovereign Lord’s mission to bestow a crown of beauty instead of ashes? Have we offered comfort to those who have to flee their homes just to stay alive or have we slammed the door in their faces? When you look at us as the church, do you see a family of people who bend low to help carry the weight of Jesus’ cross or do you see a group of people who spit on Jesus as he bled carrying his cross up a hill as a crown of thorns drew blood from his head?
Do we get so caught up in our routines of attending church on Sundays, studying our Bible’s in the mornings, reading books on spirituality, discussing theology over coffee, that we’ve forgotten that God isn’t just focused on our personal growth? Have we forgotten that the reason he set us free, the reason he extended grace to us, is so we can praise him by extending his freedom and grace to those most terribly bound? Was it not he who spoke this to us, his people, reminding that we too were once foreigners:
“17 For the Lord your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great God, mighty and awesome, who shows no partiality and accepts no bribes. 18 He defends the cause of the fatherless and the widow, and loves the foreigner residing among you, giving them food and clothing. 19 And you are to love those who are foreigners, for you yourselves were foreigners in Egypt.” – Deuteronomy 10: 17-19
Did Jesus come to earth to experience our brokenness, to be rejected by all mankind, to die on a cross so that we could be a church who only loves those who look like us and who only serves when it is convenient? Didn’t Jesus call out the pharisees of his time who did this very thing?
My fear is that as the church we look more like the pharisees than Jesus. My fear is that those who are looking for Jesus won’t find him in us. My fear is that we’ve become so comfortable we’ve forgotten what Jesus’ voice sounds like.