“For I was a stranger and you did not take me in.” - Jesus
I am a follower of the teachings, and of the WAY, Truth and Life of the man from Nazareth, Jesus.
I am not ashamed of that!
I am however deeply disturbed at the message that many mainstream evangelical Christians have demonstrated recently, that completely contradicts the Gospel message.
We have well known Christian leaders flat-out contradicting the message of the Gospel on national news. Literally opposing the way of Jesus.
We have hordes of megachurch evangelical pastors who sit silently on what they know to be true because it is too important to keep people coming every week. That is what I call selling out. And so what the world sees Christianity as is entirely different than what Jesus demonstrated.
“Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter.” Isaiah 5:20
In my Bible, the prophet Jeremiah says that the very definition of knowing God.....is to defend the cause of the poor and needy! To stand up for the oppressed! To champion the cause of the alien in your land!
Not only does Jeremiah say it, but Micah, Joel, Amos, Isaiah, and Jesus!
You can look at someone and say, "he or she is standing up for the poor, and so I know that he or she is a friend of God!”
On the other hand, you can look at someone who is constantly afraid of risk, spends their time protecting their assets, lobbying against helping the poor have access to health care or housing, supporting legislation that punishes immigrants for wanting a better life for their families and says, “this person is not a friend of God.”
In the New Testament, Jesus says that all of the laws and moral codes can be summed up in simply "loving your neighbor."
In the parable of the Good Samaritan, Jesus himself throws a monkey wrench in evangelical theology by saying that the "unbelieving" Samaritan is the one who is considered the good neighbor and therefore is the one who inherits eternal life.
In Matthew chapter 25, Jesus tells a parable describing the discourse of what some would call the "great throne judgment."
He describes those on his right as sheep who will inherit eternal life.
“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, 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.’
“The King will say, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’”
Matthew 25:35-36, 40 NIV
The word "stranger" there implies risk, the unknown, stepping out in faith! We do good things, not because they are necessarily safe, or easy. We do good things because they are good!
Welcoming the stranger or the refugee is something that we do because it's the humane thing to do. It's also what the world once thought of when they thought of America. Which is why we were blessed with the gift of the Statue of Liberty who holds her torch high above the New York harbor as a lighthouse, a beacon of hope!
Inscribed on the statue is a poem by Emma Lazarus and in it are the words:
"Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed, to me:
I lift my lamp beside the golden door."
It reminds me of something Jesus said in Matthew 11:
"Come to me all who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest."
We were given this gift because the world looked at America and dreamed of the possibility.
I have been honored to know and to work alongside some of the finest Americans you will ever meet. And among them are immigrants. Many of those are Muslim immigrants from numerous countries including Syria, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Turkey, Somalia, Iran, just to name a few. They are doctors and pharmacists and teachers and police officers and mothers and fathers.
If you have any questions about the motives of my Muslim friends, Our Neighbors, please have a cup of coffee with me, I would love to talk to you about it peacefully.
If you still have questions, I suggest you call up one of the dozens of Christian nonprofits and ministries in our area and ask them what they think about Muslims in this community.
Call up the Salvation Army, or Greenhouse Ministries, or the Journey Home, or the Way of Hope, or Stepping Stones Safe Haven, or the Domestic Violence Center, or Meals on Wheels, or the Coldest Nights Emergency Shelter, or the Murfreesboro Cold Patrol!
These are all Christian organizations that the Muslim community has served our community with. Ask them how Muslims serve their community every single day.
Or call up any number of community organizations such as area food banks and ask them.
Or if that doesn't move you then call up any number of churches in this community that have built loving friendships with the Muslim community and ask them.
First Baptist Church, Key Memorial United Methodist, Advent Lutheran, First Cumberland Presbyterian, Open Table Christian church, or a number of churches who have answered the call and have joined hands with others in order to serve their community together.
And most importantly, if you have concerns or fears about the motives of your Muslim neighbors, I suggest you extend your hand and ask for a conversation over coffee. Or share a meal and look each other in the eye and say "help me to understand."
These last two years of politics have spotlighted our fruit as a nation. They have exposed us as frauds when it comes to being “that shining city on a hill.” The way we have systematically oppressed the poor, the way we have spread fear and lies about immigrants or folks trying to flee desperate situations from traditionally Muslim countries.
Dr. King said in an address to Cornell University:
"I am convinced that men hate each other because they fear each other. They fear each other because they don't know each other. They don't know each other because they don't communicate with each other. And they don't communicate with each other because they are separated from each other."
I wholeheartedly agree.
Stop listening to the talking heads who have dug into a position that amounts to being against liberals or against conservatives.
Start looking for ways to find out for yourself why that mother and daughter from El Salvador made that dangerous trek through Mexico to cross the Rio Grande.
Ask your Muslim neighbor from Syria why he’s so upset about the travel ban.
And if you consider yourself a Christian, you might consider knocking the dust off of your Bible and reading it once in a while.