God and Country

scalesAs a Christian leader in a time of great division, I recognize the dangers of being too specific about the things that are going on in the world. But I believe in truth, and I believe that the church should be a place where God’s people do not settle for the superficial, a place where deep questions of meaning and purpose are pursued, and where how faithfulness in our world might take shape is held loosely. I believe in the truth, and that our relationship with God is a journey toward not only knowing the truth of God, but truth about ourselves, and our world.

While there is great division and a great need for healing in our world, true peace can never be found in sweeping problems under the rug or walking on eggshells. As people seeking to know and show the love of Jesus with the world, we cannot let fear have the final say. While the church of Jesus Christ shouldn’t simply go around grinding a political axe or adding “public policy” to the gospel, we also cannot ignore the truth. I believe in humility and grace, that the church should be one place where the world can see how people who love Jesus are truly transformed and can “disagree agreeably” and speak the truth in love to one another. Unity is not uniformity, but where people of all stripes join together around Jesus.

But I think we should be able to be specific at times, and despite its controversial nature, I believe there is a movement among the people of God to consider how to lovingly engage the issue of immigration and how we as believers seek justice for the “stranger and foreigner” in our midst and in our world. One of the clearest themes of scripture is caring for the marginalized. Countless scriptures show us God’s heart for the liberation of people who are being oppressed and mistreated, and how God’s righteousness calls us to treat “sojourners” seeking refuge among us (Lev 19:33 among others).

As we explore this issue of immigration together, I want to express first off that I have no intention of using the trust and influence of my position merely to further any kind of earthly agenda or cause. I also want to express that while some may write my concerns off as naive, that I am on an earnest quest to seek the truth with God, and am open to your wrestling with me in that. If you disagree, please help me understand where and why. That being said, I do especially have a concern for the needs of two groups of people in our world today, refugees from Syria and Iraq, and DREAMers.

First, refugees from Syria: I want to begin by acknowledging that though the lines of Syria were redrawn in their final form after WWI, Syria is an ancient place with a rich biblical history. It was Antioch of Syria that followers of Jesus were first called Christians (Acts 11:25). This ancient hub of Christianity is home to many Christians to this day, who are now desperately facing some of the worst persecution of our time, fleeing terror and tyranny in a refugee crisis at a scale that the world has never seen. In scripture we see it is in fact the church of Syria–who in the face of a famine that spanned the Roman Empire–exemplified extravagant generosity by sending all the money they could muster to help their struggling brothers and sisters facing starvation back in Judea (Acts 11:28-30). Right or wrong, it is our government that destabilized Irag and Syria, and that put our current Christian brothers and sisters in their desperate situation. I understand deeply held concerns about our own security, and have my own, but my greater concern is that if fear of terrorism justifies a refusal to help those fleeing ISIS, have we not let the terrorists win? Are we not, as Christians, obligated to refuse to let fear tell us what is right and what is wrong?

Secondly, the DREAMers: While many people have broken our countries laws and entered illegally, and it is easy to find justification that they should be deported, DREAMers are different. These are people who were brought across the border as children by their parents. Many of them have no connection with their former country, and have only known America as their homeland. Under DACA, these immigrants made a deal to register themselves with the government and even paid their own money to balance out the cost of processing their applications for this low risk status. Now they are quite understandably fearful that they will be the easiest targets for deportation, because of their attempts to seek official status and come out of the shadows.

It is my understanding that Quakers in Iowa long ago found themselves in a similar situation with the hot button issue of slavery: people–who were trapped in a vulnerable position not by their own choice–and who because of the letter of the law, were not accepted as people of value. It was many Quakers who, at great personal risk, stood up to these unjust laws by harboring slaves on their way to Canada, our forebears’ civil disobedience answered to Christ’s law of love and not popular opinion.

I want to conclude with this: I do not have the answers to these big questions. But I do know that Jesus cares for “foreigners and aliens” and that according to Mt 25, if the Lord blesses us with a tangible way to serve them, it is actually a way we serve Him. The examples of the Syrian church and of the early Iowa Quakers give me great hope that God may once again awaken and “unleash” the church to meet big needs in our day. But if the Lord is awakening His people to meet these needs–and I believe He is–instead of thinking “politically,” let us seek the truth prayerfully. Let us trust that God will present His will, if we have the courage to seek it faithfully together.
Agape,
James Tower

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