If Such a Thing as Grace Exists

 

 

I thought it was just my parents and a few others, at first. Then as public opinion rolled in on Twitter and Facebook, I realized it was most Republicans I knew. Then a few days ago, I saw the map of states whose governors are refusing to accept refugees—now a majority. I’ve read the posts that say we are at war with Islam itself, not with “radical” Islam or simply terrorism. I’ve heard the sermon clips that reference Acts 17:26 and describe closed borders to refugees as “God’s idea” and an act of obedience to the Bible—I heard Dr. Robert Jeffress say “It is impossible to defeat an enemy you are unwilling to identify.” And almost all of this, at least in my circle, is coming from those who call themselves followers of Christ who will be identified as His disciples by their love.

And I just don’t get it. I’m disgusted with Christians. At the same time, I’ve never been more eager to follow the example of the Jesus I read about in scripture. For my entire life, the gospel has been believed by Christians to be worth dying for. Jim Elliot was honored as a hero of the faith, best known for the words, “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain that which he cannot lose.” Christians have always offered prayer for countries whose borders were closed to them, and even found ways to serve there in spite of such restrictions—there are so many who have committed to take any road at any cost for the advancement of the gospel. To die making known the name of Christ—there could be no greater honor.

Suddenly, the ones they have prayed for and gone to great lengths to reach are knocking at the door. Christians don’t have to go anywhere; they need not leave their jobs and uproot their families and learn a language. They need not write monthly newsletters and sell all of their possessions and raise support. The very ones they struggled to approach are asking to come to them—and they are met with a resounding “No,” because Christians are afraid of dying. Let us pretend that refugees aren’t fleeing the same terror we fear, and let us say for a moment that these fears about their presence in our nation are fully justified. Will you only die to follow Christ and make Him known if it’s on your terms? My response to Dr. Robert Jeffress is this: It is impossible to reach a mission field you are unwilling to identify.

I do not know if there is a God who loves us. I do not know if there’s a Savior who died for me or if I will ever have another moment of consciousness after my death. But in the words of Avalon from their song “Orphans of God,” if such a thing as grace exists, grace was made for lives like this. Grace that tells us to love the stranger—because we were once strangers. Grace that helps us find the face of Jesus in “the least of these.” Grace that explains what pure and undefiled religion is (hint: it has nothing to do with the Republican party or Starbucks coffee cups or boycotting every company that supports gay marriage and Planned Parenthood). Grace that gave us the example of Christ; grace that gave us Ephesians 2. Have we forgotten?

11-13 “It was only yesterday that you outsiders to God’s ways had no idea of any of this, didn’t know the first thing about the way God works, hadn’t the faintest idea of Christ. You knew nothing of that rich history of God’s covenants and promises in Israel, hadn’t a clue about what God was doing in the world at large. Now because of Christ—dying that death, shedding that blood—you who were once out of it altogether are in on everything.- from Ephesians 2, the Message

Regardless of what we believe about Christ, we know as humans what is right. In this case, following Christ or following our consciences to love our fellow man lead us to the same conclusion—we must let them in. If the worst fears somehow become a reality and my life ends as a result…let it be. Some things are worth dying for. Jesus thought we were when we were strangers, as the story goes.

My ultimate prayer tonight is not for the security of our borders or the salvation of Muslims or the domination of one political party over another. My prayer tonight is for those who follow Christ—for an undivided heart, a new spirit, and a heart of flesh instead of stone—that through their obedience there may truly be no orphans of God.

Come ye unwanted, and find affection

Come all ye weary, Come and lay down your head

Come ye unworthy, you are my brother

If such a thing as grace exists, then grace was made for lives like this.

-Avalon, “Orphans of God”

 

 

 

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8 thoughts on “If Such a Thing as Grace Exists

  1. From my perspective now as an outsider to the faith, I do not miss this struggle one bit. This post is a gauntlet thrown into a sea of gauntlets, a repeated challenge to others who would define what the very heart of faith ought to look like. I do not envy your troubles, for yours is a burden that weighs most heavy. Many Christians out there are more than happy to close borders to anyone that is empty-handed.

    In their view, they are willing to accept that a deity blessed us all as we let refugees and other immigrants come here unfettered from foreign shores. Now that they have this blessing, they will swat the hand of anyone who dares touch it. How petty it seems.

    Most of all, I am saddened that while I agree that kindness ought to be shown to many of these strangers, agreeing with you will not help your cause at all. Instead, I am a known atheist, so others within your faith will just claim your view is the one in error.

    I can say this, though. I am glad to see some of my fellow U.S. citizens speaking out in support for the people who need shelter. Cooler heads exist in this country.

    Liked by 1 person

    • You’re right about your views not being able to help in my circle of influence. I have Christian friends who see this the way I do and have simply posted scripture on social media. Then the other Christians flock in to the comment section and post links to misleading videos and to passionate sermons like the one I linked to, or they simply say “You’re wrong!!!!” (yes, with that many exclamation marks, as if enthusiasm can make up for a deficiency in logic). “You’re wrong!!!!” under an excerpt from the very Word of God? Oh—and usually they forget that “you’re” in this case is a contraction, and they actually write “your.”

      If reasonable Christians can’t win other Christians over using the very words of Christ, I’m not sure they can win. So many people are serving a political party, an agenda, or working for their own self-preservation. Very few are serving Christ.

      Liked by 2 people

  2. […]Suddenly, the ones they have prayed for and gone to great lengths to reach are knocking at the door. Christians don’t have to go anywhere; they need not leave their jobs and uproot their families and learn a language. They need not write monthly newsletters and sell all of their possessions and raise support. The very ones they struggled to approach are asking to come to them—and they are met with a resounding “No,” because Christians are afraid of dying. Let us pretend that refugees aren’t fleeing the same terror we fear, and let us say for a moment that these fears about their presence in our nation are fully justified. Will you only die to follow Christ and make Him known if it’s on your terms? My response to Dr. Robert Jeffress is this: It is impossible to reach a mission field you are unwilling to identify.[…]

    CC

    Heartfelt CC. This thought (your first sentence) came across my neurons the other day. Isn’t this the prime opportunity to evangelize and convert these Muslims? Why such resistance?

    At the same time, I being a former evangelizing Christian (with all of my heart and soul) and now a non-Christian (with all my heart and soul) abhor the thought of bringing them here with a mission/agenda to convert them. Yes, you’d think Christians would be eager to bring them in since that seems to be a Biblical mandate in and of itself but I have to ask, is this fear response anything new really? I think of a time when Christians arrived on our shores. Did they bring love with them as they forced conversions and slaughtered the native people’s of the land then?

    I know I’m preaching to the choir here. It’s not just a Christian problem. It’s a human problem. We don’t accept “others” and we fight against plurality. I listened to a radio program recently about the slaughter of a man in India who butchered a cow for meat for his family. He was a non-Hindu and he was cruelly killed by a Hindu mob who heard he killed a sacred cow. Apparently he’s not the only one killed. These realities don’t hit our airwaves.

    From the same paragraph quoted above:

    . . . and let us say for a moment that these fears about their presence in our nation are fully justified.

    When it comes to fear though, I think it is easier to fear the outsider than the insider. Watch the news and we have much “to fear” if you will in our own North American world. But, add the outsiders (whether these refugees or others) and we easily create a mob mentality of fear of “the others” to keep our mind off our own stuff. It conveniently helps us with our own denial. The homeless and the starving on our own streets. The ancestor’s of those we slaughtered on reservations and in our Canadian north who have no clean water and face an epidemic of hopelessness. Homegrown terrorism. How easy it is to shift our fears away from our own reality to the reality of “the other.”

    Here in Canada, in my own province of Ontario, in a country considered the bee’s knees to hear some people talk, a Mosque was torched in Peterborough after the Paris attacks. A Muslim woman standing on a sidewalk waiting for school dismissal was accosted. Yesterday two more women at the subway were shoved and verbally abused. A Mexican woman, and immigrant who converted to Islam (does not even wear the traditional garments) received a note in her mailbox telling her to go home. There are and will be more of these incidents. And we’re suppose to be a progressive and pluralistic society.

    Again though I’m hit with the reality that seriously, none of this is new about human behaviour. When I think about being accosted in my own church that I had dedicated my life too. I will refrain from the emotional visual thing I wrote in my journals and shared with therapists but suffice it to say I did not die as a result of the cruelty of others but I did die as a result of the cruelty. Which leads me to my final point.

    I fear for refugees that do get into western countries because when I think of how we have treated one another (Christian to Christian) under the banner of Christian love, I shudder at how they will be treated if and when after years of assimilating most won’t convert to the chosen religion and as a result will still be feared and looked down upon.

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    • I agree wholeheartedly with what you said. What breaks my heart is that even vigorous Christian evangelism and racism and hatred will be better than what they are coming from. That’s why, while I do not agree with this evangelical motive, I’m all for using the argument to help many Christians see the error in their thinking. In my circle, it is the Christians (who already feel “oppressed” by gay marriage and the “war on Christmas”) who are making the boldest statements against accepting them. Whatever the motive, we need enough activism to get them here–then I feel like many of the Christians will just retreat to the corner and whine (rather than evangelizing or actively opposing), and we’re all used to that.

      To be clear, When I say things like “Let us say that the fears are justified,” I’m speaking completely hypothetically. I do not think they are justified beyond what we already have to fear from humans living within our borders, as you said so well. What I anticipate is that, while a fraction of a percent of violent crimes are widely reported now, all of them committed by refugees will make international headlines.

      One unique thing about this crisis is that it gives me a stance against what disturbs me about Christianity—without requiring me to actually stand against Christianity. I can use my voice in my own circle, even as a “counterfeit.” Because Jesus would have let them in.

      Great to hear from you, Zoe!

      Liked by 1 person

      • I hear you CC. You might be interested in knowing or maybe won’t even be surprised by another thought I had recently. Don’t panic now, I haven’t changed my mind but . . . (don’t you love but’s?) there was a moment recently when I almost wished I was still in the church so I could be a loving activist wolf in sheep’s clothing. Just for the dialogue you know? Just to drop stuff into the atmosphere during conversation. I use to do that though and it was terribly unpleasant and I was a sheep then! I use to think if Jesus could die for me I could put up with a little social martyrdom. Then I remember the price we paid (as I hinted to above). There was nothing “little” about it and for me, staying in that environment fighting the good fight would be like ignoring the flight attendant telling me to put my O2 mask on so I could save just one more person before I passed out and ultimately died. I’m no Jesus. 😉 (Not saying you are though. You just remind me of someone I use to know.) ❤

        Good to see you writing again. And all the best to you and Russell and your children as you await your third child. 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

    • Isn’t it hard, Tammy? I’m praying for gentleness for when the issue [inevitably] comes up over the Thanksgiving dinner table. I’m so touched by my believing friends, although admittedly few, who see this with the eyes of Jesus.

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  3. Pingback: Family Fight | russell & pascal

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