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One, Broken World: What Christians Need to Recapture in “The Other”

Idomeni Greece - September 24 2015: Hundreds of immigrants are in a wait at the border between Greece and FYROM waiting for the right time to continue their journey from unguarded passages

In the wake of the Trump administration’s focus on refugees, I would be using an “alternative fact” if I said my heart wasn’t feeling a bit heavier today than it was just a few days ago.

President Trump’s Executive Order, which may put a 120-day moratorium on the Refugee Admissions Program and an indefinite ban on refugees from Syria, is, at best, misguided in its understanding of fact and our reality as one global community and, at worst, a policy that will deeply change not only the way the world views the United States, but also how Americans view the world.

As I wrote in my post earlier today:

There is no more critical time than now for God’s people to instead turn towards the helpless, the homeless, the broken, with open arms and hearts, ready to pour out every ounce of love we can muster.

And as I wrote in an article in the Washington Post:

I certainly understand the struggle with fear in our current climate, but I imagine that there are many people on the other side of the world who have experienced fear like you or I have not seen. And they have just been told they have nowhere to turn.

As Evangelicals, we have hopefully read enough of our Bibles to understand the crystal-clear calling of our God, who (1) created all in His image, man and woman; (2) gave His life for all who would believe; (3) is surely no respecter of persons; and (4) embraces diversity and the beauty of family in a way that often surpasses our own understanding.

Revelation 7:9 is often a rallying cry for living as though we are all One Body in Christ: “After this I looked, and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people, and language, standing before the throne and before the Lamb.”

That’s where all believers are headed—gathered around the throne, and from all races and languages.

What grieves my heart deep is the misinformation on refugees, from President Trump and from many of his Evangelical supporters. Yet, such false facts and angry reactions do not align with God’s heart for this world.

Nor is it true in America—or at least it did not used to be true.

On our own Statute of Liberty is a brilliantly penned poem by poet Emma Lazarus:

Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.

“Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she
With silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

As Americans, even more so as Evangelicals, we need to let these words soak in. For in them we find the heart of the God we claim to follow and to love.

The image this draws to mind is one of embrace and acceptance, regardless of what we have done, or failed to do; regardless of where we’ve come from or where we’re headed. Those without home find a home. Those without a family find a community.

Someone said this to me after reading my article in the Washington Post:

As someone who appreciates history, I would conjecture that many Americans who do not even know much about their great-grandparents, much less their ancestors who were the first generation immigrants, have thereby lost a sense of empathy, or even sympathy. Historical amnesia may, however, help those of us who want to reject the immigrant.

We can look back at our country and see a trail of embrace (though not without many scars and wrong choices interspersed). Similarly, we can look at the history of Christianity and see a story woven in embrace. Of the sinner. Of the refugee. Of the broken. Of the lowly. Christianity, at its core, is about other-ness. The meek. The lame. The weary. It is doing as God did with us—picking up our global family. It is turning from fear and running towards any and all who have fallen off the fringes of the world.

I cannot say for sure what Rahab was thinking as the spies entered Jericho, but what I can be sure of is that she did not let her fear of ‘the other’ stop her from helping them (Joshua 2). Similarly, when the Samaritan encountered the man on the road to Jericho, he did not let indifference or fear hinder him from helping (Luke 10). Again, when Paul and Silas were in the jail, they did not let their fear of the prisoners or the guards overcome them; instead, they reached out in love (Acts 16:23-34).

It’s time we wake up, Church.

It’s time to leave our excuses behind and follow Christ.

It’s time we forgive ours and others’ past decisions and choose to walk, hand in hand, into the new reality of the world.

Trump’s latest ban may signal one thing to the world. But our counter, as Christians, is to instead break down any and all barriers that separate us from others and to instead love people of all backgrounds into the Body of Christ.

May we live pro-life, friends, from conception to death, and every moment in between. Pro-people—pro-refugee, pro-homeless, pro-exile.

Just as Christ was and is, we must be for people—even and especially those who are dirty, sinful, and lost—embracing them into the Kingdom of God. Because, let us never forget, once we were dirty, sinful, and lost as well.

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Ed Stetzer, Ph.D., is a professor and dean at Wheaton College where he also serves as Executive Director of the Wheaton College Billy Graham Center. He has planted, revitalized, and pastored churches, trained pastors and church planters on six continents, has earned two master’s degrees and two doctorates, and has written hundreds of articles and a dozen books. He is Regional Director for Lausanne North America, is the editor-in-chief of Outreach Magazine, and is frequently cited in, interviewed by, and writes for news outlets such as USAToday and CNN. He is the Founding Editor of The Gospel Project, a curriculum used by more than 1.7 million individuals each week for bible story. His national radio show, Ed Stetzer Live, airs Saturdays on Moody Radio and affiliates. He serves as interim teaching pastor of Calvary Church in New York City and serves as teaching pastor at Highpoint Church.