In response to the news… to the world.. to the last post by Bishop Bard … Chapel Hill writer, Johanna Durrett, offers her journey and challenges with the idea of ‘other’.
In light of current events, as the media focuses on the stories of immigration and travel visas, I think it is time to examine this issue in light of our beliefs and values as followers of Jesus. Let us turn first to the Word of God. In Leviticus 19: 33-34, God gave a mitzvah, or command to his people: “Do not take advantage of foreigners who live among you in your land. Treat them like native born Israelites, and love them as you love yourself.” I was once told by a rabbi that this command is repeated about forty times, more than any other command in the Old Testament. And Jesus certainly reinforced it.
So first, who are the foreigners (or as some translations read “strangers”) who live among us? I like to think that this term has a very broad meaning. It is anyone who different from me in culture, education, race, and life experiences. Think about that. When you think of it that way, there are so many. And many I have come to know and love. Extending love to the foreigners becomes an ever widening river or lake or ocean.
The love that God has for me is endless. The love that God has for you is endless. His love is freely given. No matter what we do, how we react, what we say, or don’t say does not change the fact that God loves me, God loves you, God loves all people.
So how do we extend God’s love to others? Well, first I think we should examine what holds us back from extending love? I think there are many reasons. In my own life I have held back on reaching out in love to others because of fear of rejection, fear of ridicule, fear of judgment, fear of being misunderstood, fear of saying the wromg thing, to name the most obvious. There are probably, or I should say there are definitely deeper reasons that I have yet to see, that hold me back from fully extending God’s love to others. More than likely, these fears are tied to basic desire for survival. But I will also say that the more I dare to step out the more I seem to be blessed by His love. It seems to flow like a gently moving river around me and I am along for the ride.
So if fear of “whatever” stands in my way to fully extend love to all the “strangers/foreigners in my land”, what can I do today to counter that fear and move out in love? The fear is in me. Something more moving, more powerful must be awakened in my heart to move me to action. And consider your own heart. Is there a fear, a hurt, that blocks you from thinking, acting, talking like a disciple of Jesus? Is there a fear that by stepping out in faith, that can be washed away by the grace and love of God?
Back to the news surrounding our immigration policy. What I see on the news disturbs me. Why? I see in the eyes of the individuals that are affected by the enforcement of our laws, the pain, the desire, the desperation that all of us feel, the desire to be accepted, not only in our land, but by our people. These are the powerful images that touch my heart. These are the people I want to hug. These are the people I want to love.
I am not a lawmaker. I am not a politician. I do not have simple answers to complicated laws that exist in our nation. But I am human. I am child of God and as such I want to extend God’s love to all people. Moving in the river of God’s love, the scenery that we see today, will change. I do not know what it will look like. Moving in the river of God’s love affects the shorelines and the lines drawn in the sand, so laws and policy will be affected. It is the nature of creation and change. And God is always creating us in His image.