By Don and Susan Dewey, Co-Regional Ministers
“Consider it a sheer gift, friends, when tests and challenges come at you from all sides. You know that under pressure, your faith-life is forced into the open and shows its true colors. So don’t try to get out of anything prematurely. Let it do its work so you become mature and well-developed, not deficient in any way.” James 1:2-3
I’ve been trying to decide what to write for this month’s Mile Marker, especially given all the turmoil going on in our country and around the world. I don’t want this to be a political commentary, though contrary to popular belief much of the Gospel message is both spiritual and political in nature.
I’ve been struggling to respond to both concerns coming from the White House’s recent actions and offer encouragement for those who supported the millions who took to the streets for women’s rights. Now with Executive orders that affect immigrants and threaten our Muslim brothers and sisters it is even more challenging to discern a response in light of the teachings of Jesus and the whole of scripture.
The message found in both Matthew’s Gospel (5:43-48) and Luke’s (6:27-36) keep coming to me as possible ways to respond as a follower of Jesus. There have been lots of calls to “action” and “resistance” and “speaking out” and “standing with” as important responses to the direction of our current President’s decisions. Yet Jesus’ words come ringing back to me: “But I tell you: love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you…”
As a person of privilege, this may be easier to do then for those who are feeling the full weight of these new Executive orders. I am not a person of color, nor an immigrant, nor of Muslim faith, nor a person of the LGBTQ community and yet I understand, as much as I can, the uncertainty and fear those in these communities must be feeling. How do I understand this teaching of Jesus in their context?
The Bible also has a lot to say about immigrants and immigration. In fact, the Hebrew word ger, the closest word to our concept of an immigrant, appears 92 times in the Old Testament alone. It’s important to be reminded that "Welcoming the stranger" is not an obscure message in the Bible; it's a core value. Just a quick review of some of our Judeo/Christian teachings will confirm this for us:
Deuteronomy 10:19 -- You shall also love the stranger, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt.
Leviticus 19:34 -- The alien who resides with you shall be to you as the citizen among you; you shall love the alien as yourself, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt: I am your God.
Hebrews 13:1 -- Let mutual love continue. Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers for by doing that some have entertained angels without knowing it.
Colossians 3:11 -- In that renewal there is no longer Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave and free; but Christ is all and in all.
Matthew 25:35 -- I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me.
I believe our response, whatever it is, needs to be done with truth, grace and love. We are called to speak for the voiceless, and stand with the most vulnerable as our call to just action. We are called to speak truth to power whenever that power dehumanizes or denies the rights of any of God’s people.
James says: “Consider it a sheer gift, friends, when tests and challenges come at you from all sides. You know that under pressure, your faith-life is forced into the open and shows its true colors. So don’t try to get out of anything prematurely. Let it do its work so you become mature and well-developed, not deficient in any way.” James 1:2-3
This passage from the book of James reminds me that it is when our faith is tested in difficult and hard times that we are given the opportunity to become the people God intended us to be. So let us show our true colors by putting our faith to work for God’s justice and goodness for all.
Together on the journey,
Don and Susan
Co-Regional Ministers, PSWR