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”