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On earth as it is in heaven: Why Jesus didn’t call his followers to be safe.

Last night, I posted on social media: “If we’re willing to bomb a country, we should be even more willing to accept its people as refugees.”

The post got strong reactions — many of them positive, many of them negative.  I don’t mind hearing from people who have different opinions and perspectives than I do, but what bothered me was how quickly the conversation became political.  I was called a “liberal” and a “leftist” as people’s comments became nationalistic, myopic and selfish, and implied that American lives matter more than Syrian lives do.  That safety on American soil is more important than safety on Syrian soil.

I understand that there are a lot of opinions, and a lot of controversy, about refugees and immigration at the moment.

People have such strong reactions that at one event I spoke at recently, the organizer took me aside before I went on stage and said that if I used the word “refugee” in my talk, they would get a lot of complaints and hate mail.

This as I’m about to tell the story of The Invisible Girls — a book I wrote about five Somali sisters who came to the U.S. as refugees.  Five little girls whose three brothers died before their family could get out.  Five little girls who were traumatized by the violence they’d seen in their village.  Five little girls who were living off of moldy bread and ketchup when I met them because their mom had run out of money to buy food, and was dumpster-diving for their meals out of sheer desperation.

It’s kind of hard to tell that story without using the word “refugee”, but I was asked to do it — all because some people who had certain political leanings would get upset.

The thought that people could get mad at me for telling the story of these girls — and then inviting the attendees to see the world through the eyes of God, to see the world’s marginalized or “invisible” people with compassion and love– is crazy.

The fact that they could get more upset at the word “refugee” than at the fact that there were little girls eating moldy bread because that’s all their mom could find in the trash —  to me, is absurd and obscene.

Jesus didn’t tell his followers to pursue their personal safety.  He said we should rescue people who are figuratively and literally perishing.  He warns that at the last judgment, the deciding factor will be: “Did you see me in the least of these? Did you care for orphans and widows, for people who were hungry and naked and poor?”

If this post is starting to get you angry, if you’re saying, “Yes, BUT –“, please stop for just a second. Take a breath. And read those words again.  “Did you see me in the least of these?” And if you didn’t.  If you didn’t see Jesus in the least, in the marginalized, in the invisible people, Jesus says to you, “Depart from me. I never knew you.”

If anyone in our world counts as “the least of these,” surely it’s refugees.

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Surely these are exactly the people Jesus was talking about, exactly the people who are close to God’s heart, exactly the people who become the litmus test for whether we really love Jesus or not.

The six countries affected by the travel ban didn’t have anything to do with 9/11, and they haven’t committed any acts of terror on U.S. soil.

The Syrian refugees are not skittles, as Trump’s son implied.  They are not pawns for us to use to prove political points.  Contrary to what some people argue, dropping bombs on their country does not negate our obligation to get them out of harm’s way.  It does not address the immediate reality that these innocent people are in serious peril.

It is calloused to say that when we’ve bombed their country, we’ve fulfilled our responsibility to rescue.  It is calloused to realize that men and women and babies are actively dying — and refuse to help them get out of harm’s way.

Syrians are beautiful souls, children of God, every bit as precious and valuable as each one of us.

And, partly because of our country’s posture toward them, they are dying.

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***

The bottom line is that if we claim to follow Jesus but see the world through the lens of politics, we will often — maybe always — see it wrong.

Jesus said, “On earth as it is in heaven.”  That’s to be our prayer, and our passion, and our priority, too.

Jesus didn’t say, “Let’s make America great again.”  He didn’t say, “Christ-followers should all be part of the same U.S. political party.”  He didn’t say, “You should make yourselves as safe as possible.”  He didn’t say, “People who are Muslim or speak a different language than you or live on a different continent or have skin color that’s different from yours matter less than YOU do.”  He didn’t say the things that I hear — and saw on social media last night — uttered by those who claim to follow him.

He left us here to pursue “On earth as it is in heaven.”

On earth, may we tear down walls, build bridges, be peacemakers, and care for people who are in harm’s way.  May we pursue a planet where tears are dried, where disease and death are defeated, where everyone is cherished and everyone belongs.

Jesus did — and does — rescue us when we’re in harm’s way.  And we are called to live out the story for others that he has lived for us.

When we’re talking about refugees, we’re not talking about politics or legalities or policies.  We’re talking about people who are desperate, people who are dying.

And loving them with the love of God, seeing them through the compassion of God, means that we do everything we possibly can — risking our personal safety, leveraging our treasured assets, spending every ounce of our energy — to

save

their

lives.

 

 

 

 

Thanks for sharing!

27 thoughts on “On earth as it is in heaven: Why Jesus didn’t call his followers to be safe.

  1. Thank you Sarah. I agree with everything you said. I just gave your book to a woman in my bible study group. We are considering, as a group, to help some refugees who are coming to our town, get the supplies they need to start their home here. Keep on speaking out for the peats of these!!!

  2. I posted about this very same issue a little bit ago today. I shared a loooong story of a recent encounter my family had with a Syrian refugee family while both our sons were in the hospital PICU together. I applaud your article and I am so touched by the message.

  3. One of my prayers is that people will desire to and begin to see the world and it’s people with the heart and eyes of Christ.

  4. You said “calloused.” I think you meant “callous”:
    cal·lous
    ˈkaləs/Submit
    adjective
    1.
    showing or having an insensitive and cruel disregard for others.
    “his callous comments about the murder made me shiver”
    synonyms: heartless, unfeeling, uncaring, cold, cold-hearted, hard, as hard as nails, hard-hearted, insensitive, lacking compassion, hard-bitten, hard-nosed, hard-edged, unsympathetic
    “his callous disregard for other people’s feelings”

    Offered with the spirit of love!

  5. Beautifully written and exactly on point. People are not political issues people are people and are suffering is one and the same.
    Thank you for being.

  6. Thank you for sharing your thoughts. Keeping up the battle is what it’s all about whether it is with words or housing our brothers and sisters-refugees, or maintaining a sense of intentional calm during these days of outrageous clamor that beset us daily. Thank you for acknowledging that continuing loud abrasive and divisive conversations does not answer the problem or help us find and act on solutions. We stand with you. Do not let your heartfelt words be silenced. We are all interconnected. May God give you strength, peace and enough hope to keep you moving forward. With a deep bow of gratitude, Caryl Lyn Taylor

  7. Thank you for this writing, Sarah. It’s very clear, honest, and speaking truth to power. I think you are spot on to say that “if we claim to follow Jesus but see the world through the lens of politics, we will often — maybe always — see it wrong.” My only question is with this line: “Jesus did — and does — rescue us when we’re in harm’s way.” I was going to say I disagree with this thought, but now I think, what do you mean by rescue? Certainly people are in harm’s way, living in severe poverty, famine, and dying by the thousands all around the world at every moment. Where is the rescue? I agree Jesus doesn’t call us to be safe. Blessings to you.

  8. So well said, Sarah. This fear is out of place in the heart and mind of the Christian. It’s pretty consistent with the flesh, and it grieves and concerns me that so many Christians are basing their motivations on these fleshly concerns. It’s a sad commentary on the maturity of the Church in America.

    Lots of people think we as Americans have a right to safety… but they have no comprehension that safety, of necessity, is provided at expense of liberty. Liberty must be available to all; personal safety is a personal responsibility, not a governmental one.

    Christians have no right (biblical or Constitutional) to “safety,” anyone: first, we ought to recognize it’s a myth anyway; second, Jesus explicitly told his disciples the world would bring the same hate on them it brought on Him. Who are we to expect any different?

  9. I agree with your post. I am a lifelong conservative, but I simply cannot see this as a conservative or liberal issue. It is a human issue. It is a sanctity of life issue. I teacher English to refugees and my heart is breaking over Syria and Syrians.

  10. How could anyone have said it better. You are a beautiful writer with a beautiful heart and mind. But for the grace of God those children, those families, those ‘refugees’ could be us. Thank you so much for taking the time to write this and remind each and every one of us the obligation we have to our fellow man — and in particular to these unfortunate ‘refugees’. Why should we be afraid to use the word that BEST describes their situation. “Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me,” Matthew 25:46

  11. People are directed to assist people by Jesus and God. Typically, governments are ignored by such. Perhaps, so inclined people could take in those they choose. You decide who you feel comfortable assisting. You decide how much Love you have to give. It’s the personal Love that is encouraged to be expressed.

  12. I don’t know where to begin. “Depart from me.”

    That hit me like a physical blow. There are so few pivotal moments where we are forced to change our perspective on life, ourselves, and others. I believe you have just ignited one of those changes in me.

    I have been trying to speak out for the marginalised but sometimes apathy creeps in. Fear. Doubt. What if the person on the street doesn’t want something to eat, or is violent, etc. There is always a way. Donate to a shelter. Don’t do it for the glory of doing it.

    These are things I needed to remember, and I am so grateful to you for reminding me.

  13. An excellent article, well written and on target. We mustn’t wait for Heaven, we must strive to make earth as it is in heaven.

  14. Unfortunately this has become politically divisive. Might I suggest that you send this article to our congressmen and president? I think that would help serve the interest. Hopefully the government is working on a system so those who are in dire need can be safe. Meanwhile, there are many who suffer in the u.s. Whom we can reach out to and help clothe and feed and house as well as organizations which send help to those in countries who do not have the means to even escape.

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