While the Syrian refugee disaster is nothing short of devastating, our response – namely among Christians – in the United States is polarizing and causing a wake of devastation of its own.
It’s no surprise that Christians fling themselves from one end of the political spectrum to the other, quoting the Bible and holding staunch to our theology and those who agree with us. What a shame, as we continue into election season, that we have separated ourselves, like sheep and goats or donkeys and elephants. Brothers and sisters, they will know us by our love for each other (John 13:35).
Yes, there are refugees to love and U.S. veterans to love, there are the least of these, there is our neighbor. We’ve got a lot of loving to do. Let’s start by giving – even the smallest, salt-grain sized – grace to fellow believers who think differently than we do. It’s OK to start small.
Wherever you land on the issue of welcoming refugees into our country, I think you got there because it feels like coming home, where things feel right and make sense. Where we know who we are and who is in charge. It’s where we feel loved.
For me, home feels like a Father who is sovereign and good, and love prevails over fear every time. You can make assumptions about what that means, but you won’t really know until you understand me.
When my dad immigrated to the United States from Pakistan nearly 50 years ago, he adopted the American dream as his gospel, moving here at 19 to further his education, build a career, and earn success. He became a U.S. citizen in January 1983, two years after marrying an American woman, my mom, and just five months before I was born.
Raised by a Missouri Synod Lutheran and a Muslim, I had a childhood carefully built on rules, like a house of cards, which might have had less to do with their religion and more to do with my personality. Perfection is attainable, if you try hard enough. No elbows on the table. Hard work with a little elbow grease doesn’t matter, unless someone commends your hard work. So my coming of age story needed a lot of to-dos and parameters, but with a reason behind it all. Christianity can be good for that.
By the time I realized I didn’t need to kiss dating goodbye or be a teetotaler for total control over my image and good standing with God, the pendulum swung heavily to the other side. I’ve found the pendulum carries shame and grace, idols and dogma everywhere it swings.
But then there’s Jesus. The one who stops us in our tracks, and makes us, the unlovable, utterly loved.
Fear of failure and authority motivated me for a long time, because I didn’t understand that God was powerful and good, and that he loved me. You can’t effectively love other people until you understand that you are loved by God; you just can’t.
I only share my story – a small piece of ground that my life is being built on – because I think we lose sight of our humanness in the midst of tweets and headlines and tirades on social media. Someone vehemently opposing you has her own lenses through which she views the world. It’s OK to try them on for a peek.
Every one of us, whether a displaced man or a Wall Street man, a Muslim from Syria or a Christian from the U.S. suburbs, is looking to come home. We want safety and comfort in four walls and a roof, sure, but we also want the policy, rules, and motives of the people in charge to be in line with what we think is good, beautiful, and true.
There is too much about this world that is not good or beautiful. Let’s draw together to point to who we know to be true, Jesus. Of course, let’s find shelter and comfort for those who are hurting, who have lost more than we could imagine. But we can’t honor the stories of those who need our help before we’ve honored each other’s stories.