Today I was ready to write a scathing tirade against anyone opposing immigration and the welcoming of refugees into this country. I had a nice first draft but, as my wife so kindly reminded me, that would be missing the point!
As I’ve thought about it, I’m not as much frustrated with the conversations and actions (and inaction) regarding immigration and refugee policy in this country. That’s just a symptom. I’m really frustrated because I feel like fear is winning and love is losing.
I do not want this to turn into an anti-Trump political message. I am tired of people being singled out and divided into groups. I don’t want to make anyone feel “othered.”
Fear is a strong and divisive force in this country and around the world. But as I try to follow after Jesus in a cracked-clay-pot-prone-to-wander-doing-the-best-I-can sort of way, the words that came to mind for me are these: “perfect love casts out fear.” (1 John 4:18)
Perfect love is not practical. Perfect love is not politically correct. Honestly, perfect love is not safe. In fact, perfect love is dangerous and reckless and scary. To paraphrase Paul in 2 Corinthians, Christ’s love (i.e. perfect love) compels us to be crazy.
13 If we are “out of our mind,” as some say, it is for God; if we are in our right mind, it is for you. 14 For Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died. 15 And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again. (2 Corinthians 5:13-15)
Three things that stick out from that passage:
Perfect love is a boundary breaking, inclusive love.
Perfect love breaks down the walls that divide us. Perfect love reminds us we aren’t so different after all. The Message paraphrase of 2 Corinthians 5:14-15 goes like this: One man died for everyone. That puts everyone in the same boat. He included everyone in his death so that everyone could also be included in his life, a resurrection life, a far better life than people ever lived on their own.
Perfect love reminds us that Jesus Christ did not live and die only for people of one nation or ethnicity or status. Perfect love demonstrates the truth that God so loved the WHOLE WORLD, that he sent his son Jesus to announce and embody that perfect love.
The minute we start to forget the radically inclusive nature of God’s perfect love, trouble will be close behind us. Even among the harsh laws of the Old Testament, we find this commandment from God to be inclusive, not exclusive, in our love: The foreigner residing among you must be treated as your native-born. Love them as yourself, for you were foreigners in Egypt. I am the Lord your God. (Leviticus 19:34)
Most of us, at some point in our family line, have been foreigners. Most of us, at one time or another, have been an outsider, the other. God desires we never forget what that feels like, because if we don’t, that feeling will power the empathy needed to build bridges that bring us together.
Perfect love is a death defying, fear extinguishing love.
Perfect love also reminds us that we don’t play by the rules of this world. Fear makes us think that our safety and security and life are on the line because of the actions or inactions of a country or leader or group. The truth is this: death does not define us, perfect love defies death.
Perfect loves casts out fear because it has overcome the power of fear and death. Yes, Jesus was crucified, died, and was buried but on the third day he rose again. Perfect love makes this statement true: the worst thing is never the last thing. It is possible to live with a daring confidence in God’s love and grace and not let fear rule our lives.
But just because perfect love has freed us from the power of fear and death, that doesn’t mean we should simply sit back and relish our fear-free existence.
Perfect love is an active love.
Because we have been freed from death by the power of God’s perfect love, we don’t have to worry about ourselves anymore! And if we don’t have to spend all of our time worrying about ourselves, that means we’re free to love and serve others…to pass on the perfect love that first encountered us.
As we welcome refugees, as we serve the poor, as we build bridges and not walls with our neighbors and co-workers…as we do those things we are casting out fear, we are advancing the kingdom of perfect love: God’s Kingdom. And here’s the crazy thing: as we love and serve others, as we embody the perfect love that first loved us, we continue to run into that love in the people we meet. Here’s Jesus sharing a story with a crowd:
35 For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36 I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’ 37 “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38 When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39 When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’ 40 “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’ (Matthew 25:35-40)
It might seem like fear is winning. But here’s the truth:
Fear has lost.
Death is no more.
Love has won.
Let’s start living like that’s true!
What are you going to do about it?
This isn’t an exhaustive list. It is probably slanted in one political direction. Donate to the cause of your choice. Do what you can to embody the perfect love of Jesus Christ.
Learn more about our current immigration and refugee policies. People seeking refuge in the United States face a considerable amount of scrutiny before they can enter the country.
Write your senators and tell them you support for the bi-partisan Bridge Act (a temporary measure to support young illegal residents while comprehensive immigration reform can be considered)
Donate to an organization that is helping refugees in the US and around the world (Lutheran World Relief, Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Services, Preemptive Love Coalition) and consider following them on social media.