Category Archives: BlindSpot

The Pilgrims were Refugees…

This weekend in churches across America, especially in New England, the Pilgrim’s journey to the new world will be discussed. We’ll hear things like “they were coming to simply escape persecution.. To be able to live free from the horror of families being split apart by a world turned against them. Fathers ripped away from families.” We’ll hear about the very real persecution faced by many as they first escaped to Holland and then to the new world. Looking for freedom, peace and security. You’ll hear words like Providence and a conversation about a sovereign God preparing a way. You’ll hear of the peaceful Thanksgiving dinner with some of the indigenous population (though they also were met with weaponry by others still). We’ll hear about the plights, hopes and challenges facing these people who were  forced to leave their country in order to escape war, persecution, or natural disaster.  (quick note… that’s the definition of a refugee from Google there in italics)…

Yes. So in many churches my fellow Christians will be speaking of God’s providence, the hopes and thankfulness of refugees who settled a land, formed a nation and received what they sought after fighting an uphill battle to get it..

Psalm 107 and Cognitive Dissonance

In many of these churches, Psalm 107 might be discussed, quoted or preached from. Some call this the “Pilgrim’s Psalm.” I suppose you could call it the refugee’s Psalm also.

He turns rivers into a desert, springs of water into thirsty ground, a fruitful land into a salty waste, because of the evil of its inhabitants.

He turns a desert into pools of water, a parched land into springs of water.
And there he lets the hungry dwell, and they establish a city to live in;
they sow fields and plant vineyards and get a fruitful yield.

By his blessing they multiply greatly, and he does not let their livestock diminish. When they are diminished and brought low through oppression, evil, and sorrow, he pours contempt on princes and makes them wander in trackless wastes;

but he raises up the needy out of affliction and makes their families like flocks. The upright see it and are glad, and all wickedness shuts its mouth.
Psalm 107 33-42 (ESV)

Catch that! Yes. The Psalm is here referring to the happenings of His people, Israel – but there are a few key takeaways elsewhere in the Bible and here that should make us think. Should make us ponder and consider:

1.) Common Grace – throughout the Bible, the concept that grace exists to the benefit of all the inhabitants of this land, is not foreign. That doesn’t mean I’m a mushy humanist first or foremost. The chief end of man is to Glorify God and enjoy Him forever. We are all rotten sinners who cannot do that apart from Grace. People are brought to salvation by God first so they can give Him the glory due to Him. The glory due to his name. So Christ can receive the rewards of his suffering – converted souls. But there is much benefit for us. And the fact that we all have any breath at all after sinning just once is grace. The hospitals, orphanages, charities and shelters started by believers is grace. The end should never be just common grace or social justice – it should be to honor God by caring for those created in His image – but the point remains… Common grace should drive us to ask the hard questions and care for people in the hard ways.

2.) See that bolded part? When the hard thing is done, when God’s people pull up their sleeves and let Christ show hope through them? The upright see it and are glad, and wickedness shuts its mouth.. That verse alone makes me want to weep for how we’ve missed this.

Where’s the cognitive dissonance?

This weekend fellow believers will be in church this weekend listening to messages speaking about how amazing God is. How much we have to be thankful for. They’ll hear or even give messages talking about the plight of a group of refugees who came to a land inhabited by others to try and get the space and peace and safety they needed to live freely. There will be Amens. There will be nodding heads. There will even be some pulpits slapped by the fists of men of God rightly proclaiming God’s sovereignty over everything and the security that comes from that.

Yet… Across much of  in name only “Christendom” and actual Christendom in America – by Sunday afternoon, eyes will be glued to the TV, the websites, the anger will boil and rise. And shouts against refugees looking for what the Pilgrims were looking for 400 years ago will crescendo and echo throughout the airwaves, houses and status updates.

Maybe those will be outright shouts. Maybe they’ll be what I’ve caught myself doing with fence sitting comments like “yes. we should help some, but…”

This morning sitting in a great message for Thanksgiving I wrote a lot of notes. I fully agreed with all the words of my Pastor – but I wrote some quotes he shared and questions I found myself wondering about when he was talking. His message was about the Puritans we call Pilgrims, but I kept going to the refugees. The thoughts below are thoughts I had about the cognitive dissonance:

“Is He Sovereign Or not?” – If he is? We should care about security and not be foolish – a sovereign God doesn’t mean we should jump off Everest. But it means that we can be rational and ask rational questions – and when they are answered and we learn the risks aren’t what we think they are – we should be willing to relent and not just say “fine.. let them come” but we should actually strive to be the body of Christ we are called to be! All the way. If he is sovereign – we should be willing to do the uncomfortable thing and the thing with a slight slight slight  risk of fearful outcome if it means doing what His clear and revealed will is in caring for others..

“Pilgrims – it was providence.. Refugees Today? GO AWAY!” – That seems to be what I see and hear a lot.

This quote – My pastor shared in the context of what the Pilgrims were trying to do. He attributed it to Swiss Psychiatrist Paul Tournier “…we long for a place to belong, a place to be home all our lives, and we are restless until we find it.” – Hear that? It’s a good quote. That’s what many of these refugees are looking for. They had that, by the way. But it was ripped from them.

The Mission Field Is Coming To Us – We often get excited about putting the money and prayer and time into sending missionaries. But right now? A mission field wants to come to us. And we are screaming and shouting at them and telling them to go back to the ruins they are fleeing… You could call these folks “the least of these” and if you did, then Christ’s words in Matthew 25:40 should haunt you. I got at this in my talk speaking about the Problem with The American Church in a post a year or two ago. Let’s take care of the mission field coming to us.

Closing Thoughts

No. We shouldn’t just open the borders and not enforce security. But we need to understand that the refugee process is perhaps the vector least likely to be used by terrorists. The vetting process is crazy there. Meanwhile visa waivers, overstayed student visas, an unsecure border, etc are far more threatening.

Many of my conservative friends hate it, just like I do, when the refrain of “DO SOMETHING!” comes up about guns after an incident and irrational legislation starts. We get uncomfortable with the statements that start with “if just one life can be saved”  yet we use the same here. If we were serious? Then we’d want to use that logic to stop a lot of other causes of terrorism that some of the liberal policies speak to. We can’t use the logic we hate being used against things we care about. It’s dishonest of us.

This year I’ve come back to this verse in Isaiah a lot. And it works here also. Are we going to do Christianity? Or are we going to do Politics Infused Christianity? It’s a choice we have to make. Let’s wake up and look at the suffering in front of us. Let’s look at the extras we have. Try and imagine ourselves in their shoes. Even just for a second. What will we do?

Isaiah 1:17 says “learn to do good; seek justice, correct oppression; bring justice to the fatherless, plead the widow’s cause.” –  Oppressed? Check. Fatherless? Often. Widows? Often. Their cause? To survive and maybe provide a chance for their family to thrive..

They may look different. Many of them may even believe differently and worship a false God. Many are confused. Many don’t speak our language. And a couple bad apples could be mixed into the throngs of scared and hurting families.  But this verse doesn’t talk about these things. It just says learn to do good, seek justice and correct their oppression. So what are we going to do? Obey? Or yell and push away?

 

Evil – It Unites Us

Martin Luther wrote of a concept he called “simul justus et pecattor” – it’s Latin basically translating to “simultaneously righteous and sinner”. That’s the state of a Christian – we are at the same time sinners and righteous. Christ has freed us from the bonds of sin and made us whole legally. Yet our flesh remains and it rebels and fights. A war within our bodies. Until we see glory, that is our state. Hopefully it is a journey marked by ever increasing repentance and a trend towards closer to where we ought to be – but we’ll never reach it.  We couldn’t – that is how bad we are – that we needed Christ to impute his righteousness on us and to take our sin on himself.

You see – positionally, when we are found in Christ – we are righteous. If we are Christ’s we received his righteousness and he received our sin on the cross – this is imputation. (Many verses describe this but Philippians 3:9 “ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith” and 2 Corinthians 5:21 come to mind “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” – both from the ESV.)

There is something important here to grasp. We have sin that had to be placed on Christ. We required righteousness we couldn’t earn. This tells us something about our “Pre-Christ” state. This something is why Paul said he couldn’t boast of his salvation. He would never have earned it in an eternity of lifetimes. Neither could I. Neither could you..

People like to play the game of grouping people into two buckets. “There are only two kinds of people on this planet _____”. But there are actually several categories we all fall into. We always will fall into and always have fallen into. For instance – all humans are image bearers of God – we carry the image of our creator God. All require oxygenated blood to reach cells for life to continue. On that list of “we all ___” you can add “We are all evil” – period, full stop.

Every person who ever lived and ever will live – apart from Christ himself – shares this trait. I can give Bible verse after Bible verse that proves this out from the Old or New Testament. I’ll share one though – a section from Romans 3. Paul quotes from the Old Testament in this passage that remarks on how evil and corrupt we all are.

What then? Are we Jews any better off? No, not at all. For we have already charged that all, both Jews and Greeks, are under sin, as it is written:

“None is righteous, no, not one;
     no one understands;
    no one seeks for God.
 All have turned aside; together they have become worthless;
    no one does good,
    not even one.”
 “Their throat is an open grave;
    they use their tongues to deceive.”
“The venom of asps is under their lips.”
     “Their mouth is full of curses and bitterness.”
 “Their feet are swift to shed blood;
     in their paths are ruin and misery,
 and the way of peace they have not known.”
     “There is no fear of God before their eyes.”

 Now we know that whatever the law says it speaks to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be stopped, and the whole world may be held accountable to God.  For by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin. (Romans 3:9-20 ESV)

Did you grab that? We are all evil. We all have corrupt hearts. We all seek after ourselves. Sure we have good moments. We can be kind for various motives – but at our hearts – we are evil. That unites us all.

This is why Christ needed to come. He fulfilled the demands of the law which we never could – even if we wanted to it – and we don’t want to.. He purchased our freedom – not from some external bondage only – but he purchased our freedom from our own evil hearts.

Sin isn’t an external thing that happens to us. It isn’t even something that is externally triggered onto us. Yes we inherited this sin nature through Adam – but we are just as guilty as he was. We choose sin. James has this to say about the root of sin in us:

But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death. (James 1:14-15 ESV)

My sin.. It comes from my own desire. That was true before I was Christ’s and it is still true today. I’ll be honest – I don’t like that thought. I wish I could blame my choices. My actions. My failings.. I wish I could blame all this sin on anyone or anything else. I can’t though. It’s on me.

Our natures are evil. As sure as a ruminant is a grass eater – the human heart is set on sin. It will choose no other. Sure moment by moment self control can help – but over the lifetime, we go back to our ways. We choose to.

You can say we are united by this. And I think it is good that the Bible reminds us of this. Pride is easy for humanity. Well it’s easy for me – maybe you find it harder. If I let my ears be tickled I can find messages that tell me “You’re not that bad”. I can hear that I’m not as bad as, say, Hitler or the young man who shot up a church because of skin tone.. But the Bible declares this to be untrue. And that’s important. Because conviction of sins is important. It’s like the doctor scaring someone with the raw truth about the road they are on without changes – sometimes a reality call is needed – and the Bible gives that reality call to us.

So there we are. United by evil – a trait we all share.

The other day, though, I read this letter from Abby Johnson to Dr. Nucatola. Abby is a pro-life activist. She used to be an abortion clinic nurse and I believe a director. Dr. Nucatola is the planned parenthood medical director caught on camera discussing careful ways to crush only the parts of the unborn without the organs PP would want to harvest for fetal tissue banks for research..

Abby’s post and open letter to Dr. Nucatola starts out great. She is compassionate and has understanding for where she is – she was once there herself. She speaks of grace and forgiveness. She speaks truth. I found myself in agreement with this letter but then I got to this paragraph and I felt like a record needle scratched:

I understand the world you live in. I understand the blindness. I don’t think you are an evil person. I wasn’t an evil person. But just like I was, you are gravely misguided. I want you to know that I care about you. I have seen the things being said about you. I have seen the hate and vile comments about you. Seeing those things being said about you is honestly heartbreaking for me. I can’t imagine what you are feeling right now. I understand how hurtful people can be. I still receive comments like that sometimes.

Sigh..

This is sad to see. Yes – there is blindness in sin. Yes there is darkness and blindness and deception in the abortion industry. But this makes me sad to read. I can’t read the Bible and not see that I am evil. I can’t not see that my sins – and there are many sadly – are my fault. I can’t not see that I am evil. I can’t see that I was conceived in evil (Speaking Adamically here…) and that my heart conjures the evil and sin takes my desires and runs with them – but they are my desires first.  I fear that if I were to blame all of my shortcomings on being too blind to see – I would be taking the easy way out. If a personal friend of mine who claimed faith told me these things – I would have a serious chat and make sure they understand the gospel and haven’t deceived themselves about their state today.

I’m not saying people can’t be gravely misguided. But I am saying that the Bible is clear that we all have a conscience. We may do a great job of rationalizing sin – and hiding that guilty deep. We may do a good job of taking the blindfold out and putting it on ourselves. But we can’t take the Flip Wilson way out and say the devil – or some organization or whatever – made us do it. No. We knew it was wrong. We did it anyway.

Romans 1 and 2 talks about our heart. It talks about how we know right from wrong. How we have consciences. How we naturally know right from wrong. You know this is true – I don’t care if you are a believer or not – you naturally know these things to be true. We can argue and debate them – but that is in disobedience to your own heart.

Why do I care? Because I loved that letter to Dr. Nucatola. I loved the plea from the heart. I loved the condemnation of the folks disrespecting her – we are to love our enemies. We are to see all humans as image bearers of God. Whether they are 84, 2, 12 weeks old in the womb or Dr. Nucatola who can justify abortion in her heart. Vicious attacks and name calling are horrible. Showing no grace and love is anti-Biblical. But that paragraph above takes an important doctrine and hides it. It gives someone a pass and makes it easier to say “sure.. I’ll take that Jesus guy into my life” without really understanding or meaning it.

Friends -we are evil. That’s our default. The only cure from that default is Christ breaking our bonds to it and living His life through us over our lifetime – changing us over that lifetime.

Kalief Browder – We Failed Him. We Disobeyed God.

About a year ago I read an article in the NY Post about a teen who spent far too long(*) in jail awaiting trial for trumped up charges he was probably innocent of. I was incensed when I read the story. I was furious at this peek into the system that would put him there for this. It wasn’t a fear induced anger – I wasn’t afraid of this happening to me or my children. It isn’t a problem that would face us.. Perhaps that’s why I became so angry. I was mad at the injustice shown to a human being who lives on the same sphere I live on. Who was made in the same image I was made in.

To me this case summed up a lot of injustice that still exists in the Criminal Justice system in this nation. Call it race. Call it socio-economic status. Call it both. But this story peeled back the veneer I’ve seen over our justice system. The veneer that says “nah.. it’s not really that bad.. if you can’t do the time, don’t do the crime.” I’m not saying I disagree with personal accountability after reading of his story. I’m just saying that things are not always as they appear to be. By all accounts and by the integrity and courage and decisions this young man (well he was a boy when he entered jail waiting 3 years for his trial.. he was a man when he was finally left when the state dropped their charges…) was innocent of the charges lobbed at him.  I don’t fear this happening to me because he lacked four things I possess:

  • The ability to afford – or easily find a way to afford bail
  • The ability to afford – or easily find a way to afford a lawyer
  • White skin (as much as I wish this wasn’t a factor, I can’t say that and feel like I’m telling the truth)
  • I don’t live in the inner city

(* – Actually it is even more than far too long. 1 minute in jail for trumped up charges from a confused witness who changed his story a couple times to the cops and has zero other proof just “yeah that looks like the guy” with no other evidence whatsoever is far too long.. And I.. And most of the folks who read my technical blog wouldn’t even spend a second in a police cruiser or a second in handcuffs here.)

What Happened?

Really simply? This young man had one incident with police (cleared off of his record) that was a dumb thing his friends did and he was there and went along as a teen. That’s it though.  This time – he and a friend were walking. A cop came up to them and accused them of stealing. He told the cop “check my pockets I don’t have anything!” cop said “no a backpack” and then the cop said it was a week or so ago but the victim said he identified them on the street and knew it was them.. That’s it. No videos, no evidence, no proof, no nothing. And he got arrested, processed, bail was set (too high for his struggling adoptive mom – he was the 8th she adopted) and he went to Rikers island. Once there he had a tough time and ended up in solitary confinement for a lot of his stay.. While he waited for trial. For three years. THREE YEARS.. THREE.YEARS. The system is busy. And most folks end up waiting and waiting and then the prosecutors and judges offer a pretty good plea deal and they take it out of a desire to leave Rikers. He never took a deal. Even at the end when the deal was plead down to a misdemeanor, no big deal on the record, and get out on time served. He refused. He was tortured in his heart about it but he said he was innocent and he wasn’t going to do that. Instead he’d risk trial and risk 15 years in prison if found guilty… Ultimately.. The state dropped the charges when the “victim” went back to Mexico – and there was no other evidence, just a statement of one victim..

So I was pretty mad – and broken up about this case. Well today – I stumbled on a story about Kalief. The adopted son. The brother. The friend. The kid trying in school and getting C’s. The kid who didn’t want to just waste his life and had plans and dreams.

He’s dead. (Link to NY Post article about that)

This past weekend, his adoptive mother who was there for him for every single one of the court hearings (where the prosecutor asked for a continuance and then he went back to Rikers waiting again for his right to a speedy trial…), who raised him and loved him and helped instill integrity in him – found him hanged. She found his limp body hanging out of a window in their home. He never escaped the torture he suffered in Rikers. The solitary confinement during his growing and building years. The beatings. The starvation from angry COs. The humiliation. The destruction of his pride. He may have been free from Rikers physically, but it never left him mentally.

The system killed that young man. The attorneys and judges and policy makers and COs and Prison officials didn’t push him out that window. But they systematically sucked his life from him. They destroyed his will, his identity and his desire to live. They turned him from a vibrant youth with potential into a meek,quiet, broken young man who lost three years of education. Who lost three critical development years as a teenager.

The story about his death is here in the NY Post – from the same reporter who first told us about his plight in the earlier link.

This story has crushed my heart in more ways than I can count. The knowledge that he is most assuredly not the only person suffering like this wrecks me.

There were no kickstarter campaigns for his bail money. There were for my football team the New England Patriots and their star Quarterback Tom Brady when the NFL fined them. The system failed him. The media failed him. Our attention was diverted to many false shouts of “Racist!!” over on MSNBC or defense of said racism over on Fox News or 6 way video chats about missing airplanes on CNN.. But his story never got the time of day. It got a little after he was out – but not much.

We disobeyed God, Too

Yes. We disobey him in a lot of ways. We kill our unborn children. We tighten our wallets and close our clean hands inside and outside the church to real suffering. We have our quiet sins, too.

But we let this young man suffer. And we are letting others like him suffer. His mother was obedient. Obedient to care for the orphans and give this boy a second chance on life and a home. His adoptive father was obedient in a sense – even while separated he supported the children and was there for them.

Here’s the deal – Kalief’s problem is our problem. We are called to minister to the world. We are called to love justice and seek to end oppression. We are called to help. I harped on this in an earlier blog post about a problem in the church here.

As we stay silent and ignore the plight of this young man and let the media that tries to tell us what our religion says or the “Christian” politicians who try to tell us “everything is fine.. it’s just those bad sinners and criminals we have to fix then we’ll be all good” we become complicit in these crimes.

This isn’t as obvious as the Selma moment in our history; it isn’t outright and obvious, in your face oppression of basic rights like voting and public beatings for daring to try. This is just as important, though, and we cannot call our justice system just if there are men and women in the same predicament as him today in jails throughout America. If no one is held accountable for indirectly causing this young man’s death – or at the very least destroying his civil rights and inhumanely treating him.

His death must be transformative – if it isn’t then the atrocious waste of a life is made worse. His death must become a pivot point where we wake up and care. Where we seek to at least try and understand the plight of others. Where we stop ourselves from justifying this as “well.. just a bunch of thugs.. that’s what happens” like the commentators who try and tell Christians how to think say. If the nation doesn’t rise up and shout ENOUGH! then there will continue to be more Kaliefs out there. They may not kill themselves. They may not even be fully innocent of the original crime they were accused of. But the message this treatment sends is “that’s all you are. It’s all your kind are… Abandon all hope and be broken” – This treatment, this unjust justice system will continue perpetuating the problem. More lives will be ruined. More destructive recidivism cycles will be put into action by the flywheel of injustice. And we’ll continue spending our time arguing and talking about unimportant items while nothing changes. We’ll eat our cake and fight about the issues the politicians and media want us to fight about – and pain and suffering and loss will continue…  It’s time to snap out of this slumber we’ve allowed ourselves to be lulled into.

Life is better for a factory raised chicken than what he endured at Rikers.

Isaiah 1:17 says:

 learn to do good;
seek justice,
    correct oppression;
bring justice to the fatherless,
    plead the widow’s cause.

 

Micah 6:8 says:

He has told you, O man, what is good;
    and what does the Lord require of you
but to do justice, and to love kindness,[a]
    and to walk humbly with your God?

 

Jesus told us about the Good Samaritan to tell us that we are not to be passive inhabitants of this world ignoring the problems that “others” have. But to be an active participant in being an instrument of His grace unto the world.  James’ reiterates that a lot in his epistle.

The system failed here. But the church failed here as well when we let injustice and oppression reign and ignore it. It’s the same as when we ignore the oppression of abortion that happens down the road from our churches.  It’s the same as when we ignore the hungry and hurting in our world or in our midst.

We all fail when we see injustice and our first instinct is to reply to that injustice with “well.. they probably deserve it.. Maybe if they just listened.. Maybe… What if” – sometimes those are the correct assumptions. And we do no good jumping to conclusions. But it really feels like a lot of the visible church (especially the REALLY VISIBLE church and the intersection that I call FoxNewsianity and Republiianity) has a default of ignoring these things as someone else’s problems.. And focusing on ours.  I spent some of my time recently arguing with Amazon about my kids birthday present not shipping when they said it would (in two days because of Prime).. That was my hassle.. There are people in jail cells waiting years for trial in NY because they can’t afford a lawyer who isn’t overburdened with legal aid cases or bail.. Or because they are black. Or because they come from the wrong neighborhood.

And I’m not saying that all who break the law do so because we make them. I think fatherless children is a real problem out there. I think multi generational welfare is a real problem. I think gangs are too appealing. But I have to say there is something to this quote from the Prince Caspian movie:

You get treated like a dumb animal long enough, that’s what you become. You may find Narnia a more savage place than you remember.

 

What a shame. I pray that he knew Christ. I pray that his mom and dad and family are receiving the help they need. I pray for justice. I mourn and weep with his family.

(Note – I am sharing this because I can’t do anything else to help. I do a search and there are a scant 200 news articles containing Kalief.. While there are already over 2,000 containing the term McKinney and 2,000 containing the term Jenner… Let this be one more link about a young man the system, the country and his fellow citizens and fellow image bearers forgot about and basically let perish a few years before his suicide.)

Kids On The Border – Random Thoughts

At the southern border of the United States there is a situation going on right now described in many different adjectives. The bottom line is there is a mass of children – not accompanied by parents arriving and seeking out the US Customs and Immigration (USCIS/Border Patrol) officers and declaring their intentions to enter and stay. There’s a lot of them – more than USCIS can handle. More than the services set up to help them can handle. And there is a lot of chatter about those kids and just what we should “do with them”.  For some reason I feel led to jump into that fray. 

There are two “issues” in this situation. (and I hate terms like situation and issue, but I want to keep the adjectives simple and zoom in on a few things, not buzz words or worry over labels and which adverbs are and aren’t used).

One of the issues is – Why do they keep coming, and what have we done to encourage that and what should be done. That’s a great issue for politicians to discuss. I’m not going to wander terribly far into that one here – not today at least.

The other issue is – What do we do with the kids on the border right now? Some are bad actors – gangsters even. Some (many by many accounts) have a parent living someplace in the US – probably here without a legal right to be here*. Some are just lost and were sent here hoping to find success in our land of opportunity. They come from countries that don’t share a contiguous border with us. Under the laws on the books they have to be evaluated to make sure they don’t just get put back in the hands of the traffickers or coyotes who somehow managed to bring them here.

(*I will refer to that as an Illegal Alien here – Aliens are people, my oldest daughter is a legal alien until the naturalization process happens – I still consider her a person that I’d give my life to protect, so I mean nothing wrong by alien. And if they are not hear with visa documentation after going through paperwork – they are in violation of US Civil law and they are supposed to be deported according to our criminal code – and that’s the same as it’s always been).

The Goal

I’m going to talk a bit about these kids. And I think I’m going to formulate some thoughts even as I type this – so bear with my stream of consciousness style with lots of commas and parenthesis. I’ll try and gather thoughts together as I go. But I don’t want to talk about the politics of this. I don’t want to talk about the parties. I don’t want to talk about optics. I don’t want to spit out talking points. I want to look at the human beings in this mess a bit.

The Reason

There’s a lot of talk going on out there. I was scanning through the radio on the way to a meeting today and heard an evangelical radio talk show that delves into the intersection of faith and politics. I like a lot of what these folks on Point of View say at various times, but I also sometimes feel that they take talking points from a party, iron them with a Bible shaped iron and spit them out in that form to explain why someone who calls themselves evangelical should agree. Now that’s not all of their show at all. And I don’t even believe that is the heart of the hosts. But sometimes, it comes out that way. They were talking tough. And you know – as a parent – I get it. The point I came into the station to hear was something along the lines of “If we keep putting them up and helping them out – they’ll keep coming.. They’ll be put in danger of the bad traffickers: many will die before they even reach Mexico let alone our border, many will be enslaved and the folks sending them will keep doing it”. I agree with that point fully. (I’m not delving into issue #1 so that’s all I’ll say) but at the same time – that’s too easy of an answer. It doesn’t talk about the cost of sending them back. The cost to them. I see some folks saying we should just electrify the fence or shoot them or fire at them and send them back. But that has a view point of these kids as not human beings. You know the more I think about it and the more I see a few things my “social media friend” and brother in Christ, Jon Speed a Pastor out of New York and co-producer of the Babies Are Murdered Here video mention a few things – the more I see a striking similarity to the language and dehumanizing here that happens to babies in the womb. The more I see the kids I hear my friend Andy Leonard talks about when he visited the dump in Honduras. The more I see the destitute people I’ve heard Paul Washer talk about from his mission trips. The more I think of the abandoned babies I was able to hold and rock in a hospital in Western Ukraine recently. The more I think of these – the more I realize that once you lose empathy and dehumanize a situation – the easier it is to argue against something and take a stand that otherwise you may not have taken.

I often love the Dr. Seuss quote when thinking of the unborn. “People are people – no matter how small.” But they are also people no matter how hurt, how messed up, how hardened, and how rotten their circumstances are.

I know this even more because I’ve been to an orphanage where a lot of hurt kids are. I’ve hugged, held hands and chatted with teenagers trapped by an orphanage and adoptive system geared towards better success for placing younger children with families because they are cuter, cuddlier, “easier” kids who have more “impressionable years” left to them. We’ve chosen to adopt a teenager and are in process with another one – because God doesn’t give up on someone because of their circumstances. God stole my heart by His grace when I was a real jerk of a 20-something. Going nowhere but down into the gutters of partying and selfishness.

So.. That’s a long intro. And I’ve still not begun. But that explains a bit of my heart

The Issue

These kids on the border. They’ve broken our immigration laws. We have to stop allowing our immigration laws to be broken. We have to stop encouraging (however we are and I don’t get the dynamics there fully but we seem to be doing something to encourage them to go on what reportedly, for many, amounts to a death or rape or violence filled journey) them to come across. We have to stem the flow. For sure.

But the kids who are here. We have to do better by them. We shouldn’t let the left politicize them as some sort of justification for liberalization of our immigration laws – nations that go too loose there end up in trouble for it later.. We shouldn’t let the right politicize them as some sort of justification to send them back instantly, arrest and detain them or to beat up our President. Instead – we have to do right by them.

Now right may look like eventual deportation. It may look like finding the folks in the US who are here illegally who paid for or encouraged the journey and making them become right with immigration law. I don’t know what that looks like. I don’t know if that is amnesty. I don’t know if that is deporting and then being allowed to start process, I don’t know. But these kids have short term needs and long term needs. The long term needs are sadly going to be politicized and battled over and as long as we feed in and regurgitate talking points it will never amount to what is probably best (whatever that is) because no one will shut up and listen and discuss long enough to figure out what is best.

But right now. At this moment. There are some hurting kids who have come to America for some reason or another. A nation that us evangelicals say is a “Christian nation” a nation, we say, that is founded on “Judeo-Christian values”.  A nation that is called the land of opportunity by patriotic Americans like myself. There are some hurting kids in a really bad spot. The government is doing wrong by them because they have overwhelmed a system that is not designed to care for an influx of children here alone. The politicians are either avoiding them, using them as fodder for their cause or screaming about sending them back and letting the door hit them on the way out.

I hate to ask this because it always sounds like a corny/flippant question. But I have to wonder

WWJD?

What would Jesus do? He likes the law. His Bible talks a lot about the importance of government and civil obedience.

Perhaps Romans 13:1-5 speaks most clearly here:

Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment. For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you have no fear of the one who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval, for he is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God’s wrath on the wrongdoer. Therefore one must be in subjection, not only to avoid God’s wrath but also for the sake of conscience.

 

But again. I’m not talking about that part. I’m talking about what do we do with those kids here. I don’t mean we as a country necessarily, either. I firmly believe that if the Church in America didn’t have the problem that I described here – that we would not need to worry about the government impact of these kids in this transitory time while the government solves government sized problems (stopping them from starting that journey and how to process the ones here best). [ About government sized problems – what I mean is – these kids are one at a time needs. Individual needs. They need to be loved on and helped one at a time each in the way that is right for them. The government stinks at one sized fits all situations. That’s why so many state run orphanages around the world are such horrible horrible places. The families who are hurting need to be helped individually and uniquely. The kids who are truly orphans need to be helped one at a time. This isn’t one 30,000+ kid problem. It is 30,000 one kid problems..]

So as Christians. As evangelicals what do we do with someone who needs help. Maybe even someone who in some sense may have put themselves in the situation (I’m not passing judgment or implying any, some, most or all did, I don’t know the individual stories, just the picture MSNBC or FoxNews paint on either side).

I don’t believe most of these kids are orphans. But in a sense they are temporarily stuck in that position.

James has this to say about orphans (bolded) and a few other topics that we would all do well to hear – even related to this issue:

Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God.  Therefore put away all filthiness and rampant wickedness and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls.

But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like. But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing.

If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this person’s religion is worthless. Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world. James 1:19-27

Now the arguments will fly at the Orphan term. Arguments that I understand and could even levy myself. “They aren’t orphans!” “Just send them back to their parents!” “Put them on the train they got here on!”

May be some good arguments hidden in those quotes. And in talking about the “other issue” they have some weight. But again I’m talking about us evangelicals. Us Christians who hold signs and protest the slaughter of our neighbors at abortion clinics.

Orphans? Temporary check.

In Affliction? Definitely.

So James – just got done telling me that faith without works is dead. He just got done telling me that I better not just be a hearer of the Word but a doer.

Not just James. Here is Paul on caring for others:

Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Philippians 2:3-8

In humility, consider others more significant than myself. Don’t just look to my interests but also to the interests of others. Keep in mind the sacrifice Christ made. The one who had all the reason in the world to pull out the “DO YOU KNOW WHO I AM!?!” card. The one who had all the authority to say “Pfft! You?! You are a lousy, no good tax collector who robs from the people, you line your own pockets and you mock the precepts I’ve taught you” – yet He emptied Himself of this – He became a servant and served the least of society. The lowest of society. His example was self sacrificial. He prayed for the same people who spit on Him. He went into the lives and sufferings of those who despised Him. He didn’t accept sin. He didn’t free people from consequences of wrong actions. He wouldn’t ignore the “other issue” – but he would put at least as much emphasis on the current pain and hurt. He humbled Himself to become a curse on behalf of the people who once mocked Him. He humbled Himself on the cross for a sinner like me who told some of the most awful jokes about Him before I was His.

I look to those examples. And I wrap them up in the stories of the Old Testament – like the principle of gleaning leftovers from the harvest. Leaving some harvest behind for those who had nothing to come and glean. They didn’t plant the harvest. They didn’t buy the land. But God instructed the farmers to leave the corners of the land unharvested for them anyway.

I look to words of wisdom like this in Proverbs 28:27 –  “Whoever gives to the poor will not want, but he who hides his eyes will get many a curse.”

I look to these things and I see examples and precepts that say that while the government may have some legal affairs to attend to.. The church has some affairs of its own to attend to here.

I see this all wrapped up in Jesus’ command in Luke 9:23 (and elsewhere in the Gospels) And he said to all, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.”

He is the author of the Bible. He is the incarnate Word. These principles are His principles. Those kids on the border are all created in the image of His father. They may not all come to know Him – but they still wear God’s image. They are, as I talked about in this post, all our neighbors. And God makes no mistake about what we are to do for our neighbors when they are in need.

In Closing

I don’t know what should happen to these kids legally. I don’t care to share with you what I think of the situations and events that caused them to be lured here seeking what it is they seek. I don’t like that this situation is created, while families doing adoption legally have to go through so much paperwork and money to bring their kids in the legal way. But what I do know is that – people are people no matter how small. And people are people no matter how their background. And I know that they need to be ministered to. They should hear the Gospel. They should see the Gospel in action. They should be helped, loved, fed and taken care of while the bigger questions are handled.

Pat Robertson can talk about the curses on America because of abortion. And make no mistake – I am 100% confident that God looks down on us and sees us killing those unborn babies bearing His image and He must not be happy about it. He will not be patient forever with us.. But I don’t know how we can talk about the curse we deserve because of that while at the same exact time let our politicians rev us up into a fire about those kids at the border and come at them with pitchforks and torches with the attitude of “good for nothing stealers. Get out of our country and go back home” and dismiss their real trials, situations and woes as nothing to be affected by. I don’t get that.

Here is an opportunity for the church to arise. Go and help those in need. Save the yelling for after. Save the anger for trying to talk politicians into getting along and stopping the dangerous journey here, but cover the ears of these kids while you yell.

I so want to put a million caveats here, but I’ll just end it and risk being misunderstood by both sides of the issue.

Edomites in the Wilderness.. Who is My Neighbor?

Deuteronomy 2
Yesterday I started reading Deuteronomy. Today I was reading in Deuteronomy 2 and something hit me from the below section. I don’t have any great commentary of Deuteronomy in my possession  but from looking in a few of the standard ones the web has available, I don’t think what hit me is too far off or incorrect. This is the section:

‘You have been traveling around this mountain country long enough. Turn northward and command the people, “You are about to pass through the territory of your brothers, the people of Esau, who live in Seir; and they will be afraid of you. So be very careful. Do not contend with them, for I will not give you any of their land, no, not so much as for the sole of the foot to tread on, because I have given Mount Seir to Esau as a possession. You shall purchase food from them with money, that you may eat, and you shall also buy water from them with money, that you may drink. For the LORD your God has blessed you in all the work of your hands. He knows your going through this great wilderness. These forty years the LORD your God has been with you. You have lacked nothing.” Deuteronomy 2:3-7 (ESV)

I’ve bolded what really slapped me in the face reading.

The people from Esau – the Edomites – shared a lineage with the Israelites to Isaac but they were different tribes. Jacob, Esau’s brother received the birthright, his name eventually became Israel – and his people, the Israelites were God’s covenant people.

Maybe it’s because the concept of common grace is on my mind from a Sproul podcast I listened to this week and I’m sensitive to looking for examples – but this struck me as an example of common grace. The grace poured out on all humanity – whether an individual receives saving grace or not. The grace found for example in the bellow passage – speaking about God:

“For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.” Matthew 5:45b

 

This recounting from Moses of the wanderings that took place in the book of Numbers shows me some things…

– God gave Esau a possession and would not permit His chosen people, Israel, to take that claim away from the Edomites.

– In fact He told Moses to try to engage in business with them and buy food and drink (See Numbers 20 14-20 to see how that worked out).

– I may be off the mark here and if I am I thank you in advance for correction and instruction – but it seems like God said in some sense – “Let them keep the land I’ve given them, try to engage in business with them – at least partially because you’ve lacked no necessity all this time out here, you have my presence and my help, you’ve been blessed significantly.”

– Here and in Numbers 20 – the term “brothers” was used. Brothers in lineage. Perhaps brothers in being fellow nomadic people at that time. But brothers.

This doesn’t mean in the sense of an adoption into God’s family like those called unto salvation are through the adoption in Christ.. But it strikes me as similar in sense to the question that sparked the parable of the good Samaritan “Who is my neighbor?” In response to Jesus’ bold proclamation about the two greatest commandments on which the law hangs:

And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Matthew 22:37-39

God Has It Under Control

The Edomites did meet an end. They dwindled and disappeared. They fought against Israel, were subjugated under Israel and you don’t meet Edomites today. The land of Edom is uninhabited today as prophesied in Ezekiel. But this befell Edom in God’s timing and His plans. There is a lesson to me there also about not stepping in and thinking myself to be a judge or to know the mind of God that I could make a judgment on my own where such a judgment is not clear in scripture. This doesn’t mean a reading of Matthew 7 that stops at “Judge not” and rips the rest up.. There are places where we are clearly called to speak His truth, to proclaim what He says about sin and to rightly divide His Word and apply it. This does not mean I cannot go to an abortion mill and talk about the suffering and misery that is child sacrifice or tell a friend they are in danger of His judgment. But I mean – I can’t go and make my own rules and apply them. I don’t need to go above and beyond and assume what God wants. I can follow His Word and stay plenty busy working out my own sanctification and being the dad and husband I am called to be.

Well Timed Assault

This passage hits me after I was an idiot on Facebook. I shared a news story about discrimination and religious liberty meeting head on. And I argued with the first responses that came in, lost sight of the discussion and just kept arguing.

I won’t dredge the original story up or the point I was making in sharing. I have since deleted the post because I found myself defending myself and being defensive needlessly and that looked like a hole being dug deeper. Perhaps James was speaking about me and he meant my fingers on a keyboard or my thumbs on the phone where he spoke about the tongue all those times… And I won’t get into what I feel about that original story – because it is actually complex.

But what I will say is these passages made me think and they reminded me about three things:

  • I don’t deserve the saving grace I received. Like the Israelites in the wilderness, I’ve been blessed far beyond my deserve. I’ve murmored at times. I’ve worried often. I get angry. I get defensive. I can look at manna and grumble, “that’s it?! I want something tastier.”
  • Common Grace is here because of God’s agents – He does want to use us to confront the culture we find ourselves in. He doesn’t want us to conform and accept what is acceptable. He calls us to speak out in defense of those who need it. He calls us to share the Gospel Truth with a lost and dying world that His elect may hear and believe. But he also calls us to live selflessly. I know this, and I try to do this. I fail in many ways, and by His grace succeed in others. But as I blogged about before here – I think the church in America needs a lot of work here.. Hard to have a voice when we aren’t His instruments of giving common grace to a world that is decaying and dying. When we get lose on legalistic thinking and creating too many litmus tests this mission falters. (Some litmus tests are important and needed for sure. There are things I would rather lose my business over or be in jail over if ever put in a position of deciding. We are to be a holy people and separate over more than many liberal churches decide to.. But on the other hand when partiality, legalism and finger pointing free from introspection creeps up we should be scared.. I tow that line too closely sometimes, I see that)
  • My Neighbor Is Who I Least Think It Is – The Edomites weren’t real nice to the Israelites here in the wilderness. They didn’t exactly have a favorable history either. Even God Himself said He had chosen Jacob over Esau – for the purposes of His will. If ever there was a group that someone reading between the lines of God’s Word could have made a case for – it probably could have been at least stealing some water from those people.