Lord, who is my neighbor?

Admittedly, I get 95% of my news from Facebook posts, and that’s probably a generous estimate (after all, 82% of statistics are made up on the spot 😏). So I will start by ceding that I do not have close to all the facts about any given situation. 

I’ve been amused by the “Starbucks cup fiasco”, horrified by the Paris attack, and broken over the fleeing refugees. But more than those situations by themselves, I’m flabbergasted by my fellow Christ-proclaiming Americans responses to them. I actually know no one who sincerely loves Jesus who is remotely theatened by Starbucks proving to not be a missionary association. And everyone I’m friends with that proclaim Jesus as Lord are saddened by the Paris attack as we remember our own fear and devastation. But we seem split over refugees and that has caused me to pause and evaluate what I believe about that. 

I’m no poli-Sci expert, nor am I well versed in our policies on asylum or immunity, and for those of you who are these things I am probably pre-discredited by this. However, to my fellow Christ worshippers, our decisions, our lives are not to be controlled by fear, pressure, policy or the false promise of security in this world, but instead by the truth, love and commands of an almighty, merciful and gracious King named Jesus. 

If you are a Christ follower, our citizenship is in another kingdom, to which we owe absolute and singular allegiance. Any country we dwell in here is  one we were placed in “for such a time as this” to be used as a base of operations, a resource to serve our God. And there are a multitude of scriptures painting that exact TRUTH for us. We are called: ambassadors, aliens and strangers, sojourners, the scattered ones. We have been transferred from our previous domain to His kingdom. We have a new identity, a new country, a new king. 

So as citizens of another country how do respond to refugees? What are our orders as ambassadors from another King?

As this mulls in my head, I open my Bible to read my daily readings, and day after day, the Lord whipers his gentle but persistent TRUTH, the commands. Yesterday Hebrews 13:2-3 gently urges: “Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares. Remember those who are In prison as if in prison with them, and those who are mistreated, since you also are in the body.” Can we argue political reasons against hospitality, the imprisoned and mistreated? There doesn’t seem to be a contingency clause to empathy put to action here. Today, in Luke 3, the crowds surging in on John as he baptizes, ask him what to do, how to treat people. In black and white he tells them, “whoever has two tunics, share with him who has none, and whoever has food should do likewise.” If he were alive today, John would end that discussion with “mic drop”. 

I guess the most obvious is the Good Samaritan. “Lord, who is my neighbor?” asks the Pharisee. Isn’t that what we are debating now? Whom do we actually have to love as we love ourselves? Jesus tells a parable that time and lack of historical knowledge has polished the edges off of. In our times it would read more like:  An honest hard-working American gets mugged and left for dead. A political leader and a religious leader pass by and not wanting to get their hands dirty hurry past. Then a Syrian man happens by, picks him up, drives him to the hospital and leaves his credit card to cover the tab. Jesus asks, “Who was a neighbor to this man?” He is purposely trying to offend. He picks their political and religious rivals to make a point about loving your neighbor as yourself. A neighbor is as a neighbor does. Are we being neighbors? 

We are told that true religion is caring for widows and orphans in their distress and keeping ourselves Unstained by the world (James 1:27). I believe it’s easy to be “stained” by politics, by fear, by bitterness and hatred. I also believe we get “stained” by “reasonableness”, “logic”, “priorities” and “safety”. Those are ways of making decisions that block out the way of true obedience, which is simply to do what you see the Father doing. To be about his business. The fruit of the Spirit within us is not logic or safety or priorities. We aren’t called to those things. We are called to love the Lord with all of our being and our neighbors as ourselves. Will that be risky? Assuredly! Will it cost us maybe our very lives? We’re told that upfront! Will it be worth it? Far beyond all we could ask or imagine!! 

Debates are for politicians and for me as a Christian, it’s not a political matter. It’s a matter of  love and obedience. To glorify and enjoy right now and forever a generous and loving God who takes very seriously the plight of the helpless! After all, he rescued us when we were enemies! 

“Is he safe? Course he isn’t safe! But he’s good!”