WE’RE ONLY CHASING SAFETY
We have to ask tough questions these days to combat the violence that rises around our society. Questions around the safety and accessibility of firearms in our nation. Questions around whether we should let Syrian refugees take shelter in our borders.
The ‘Christian answer’ to these questions, at least according to the loudest Christian voices in the public sphere (read: right-wing conservatives) is “whatever keeps me and my loved ones safest”.
To me, this appears to line up with a human/survivalist instinct rather than an allegiance to the teachings of Jesus Christ.
It’s difficult for me to read the parable of The Good Samaritan, or read Galatians 5:14 (which put the weight of “fulfilling the entire law” in keeping the Golden Rule) and reconcile the rejection of the refugees.
What about Matthew 25? Does that apply only when we feel safe?
It’s hard for us to wrap our heads around how these Jesus’ words apply in today’s world. Things are so different now.
There weren’t extremist Jews launching covert bombings and terrorist attacks all over Samaria in Jesus’ time. Would Jesus have told a different story if they were?
And who is this “neighbor” we’re supposed to love as ourselves? Does God’s definition reach farther than national borders? If so, how far?
I find it hard to believe we are truly wrestling with the implications of Jesus’ words when we are so quick to base our motivations around our own safety.
WHAT DO YOU BELIEVE?
I’d like to propose a thought that may sound extreme and controversial.
It feels risky to share, but it’s been on my mind for a long time now.
When we make our own physical safety our greatest priority, are we not demonstrating our own disbelief in God’s promises?
If we truly believe that we are saved by the blood of Jesus Christ; that our sins are atoned for and that we are going to Heaven when we die, shouldn’t we navigate these serious issues without regard to our own Earthly livelihood?
I’ll admit, I’m not good at this either.
I’m as selfish as they come. I make choices on a regular basis that demonstrate my commitment to my own wellbeing over the good of those around me.
But I know not right. And I have a desire to be better than that. I am compelled by the Gospel to shift my priorities.
Part of me wants to believe that God wants us to reach out at our own risk BECAUSE it is hard. Not only does it allow us to express true devotion to His commands, but when we set aside our own safety and show the love of Christ at our own expense, His name is made famous for the reasons that reflect His loving character.
Too often, His name is made infamous for our lack of tact and our ridiculous twisting of the faith. (See: the Starbuck red-cup controversy).
Incidentally, I also think that this central idea that Jesus left us with is the ultimate weapon we have to combat the terrorism of the Islamic State.
We’ve grown up in a society where technological growth is exponential. Modern computing is less than 100 years old; the internet less than 50. For the past 15, we’ve developed the ability to access millions of hours of content in our pockets at almost no cost. It only makes sense that just as innovative and helpful ideas have been made easier to move at lightning speeds, so have hateful and destructive ideas. The rise of internet recruiting by terrorist organizations is a natural extension of this innovation.
ISIS (or ISIL, or IS, whatever we’re supposed to call them) is engaging in a war of ideology. If we reject the Muslims and Syrians around us and show them that we (as a country, as Christians, as whatever) do not care, many will eventually lose hope. Many will turn to ISIS and find their purpose in their wicked and twisted promises. ISIS wants their enemies to continue bombing them. They want Americans to believe all Muslims are terrorists. As much as they believe they themselves are the truest most type of Muslim, ISIS knows that the more we create and isolate a stereotype around Muslims in America, the easier their job is to recruit them into their organization.
(TL;DR: We have the power to isolate these people from the love of Jesus Christ and kill ourselves in the process.)
In my opinion, the most logical AND Christ-centered way to move forward is in love. It’s too easy to give up on people because it feels less risky. Even if I’m wrong about how effective it would be to show incredible mercy and care for these people, I am convinced that it reflects how Jesus would operate in our day.
ONE FINAL CHALLENGE
We need to stop viewing the words of Acts 17 (that is, to die to ourselves, take up our crosses) as a command to latch onto our Conservative ideologies and fight for our right to live comfortably as First-World Christians. The last part of this verse is vital: “…and follow Me.” (Me = Jesus)
Jesus was not a political self-preserver. In fact, he was quite the opposite. He was a martyr who acted in love to the point of death.
Finally my friends, I leave you with this:
“But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.” – Jesus Christ (Matthew 5:44-45)