Love. Hard. Period.

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A teacher of the law asked Jesus what he must do to inherit eternal life. Rather than answer his question, Jesus countered and asked the teacher to define the law himself and the teacher replied, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind, and love your neighbor as yourself.”

Agreeing to the teacher’s answer, Jesus said, “If you do this you will have eternal life.”

But the teacher wasn’t satisfied. He wanted to test Jesus further. “Who exactly is my neighbor?”

Rising to the challenge, Jesus proceeded to point to the one who was most vilified in their society – the Samaritan. The one who was religiously and culturally different from this teacher – and who was consistently exploited for being so – was the very one whom God called him to love. To embrace. To treat neighborly. To display kindness, mercy and humility toward.

Jesus did not stop there. He not only professed love for the socially outcast but built an entire ministry around other marginalized identities including the poor, the widow, the orphan, the prostitute, sinners, women, children and more, showing that true disciples of Christ show mercy and love to all people without distinction. In his ministry to the outcast, Jesus demanded very little of these people, in fact, he continually claimed that the kingdom of God belonged to those at the margins of society saying, “Blessed are you who are poor, meek, merciful, pure in heart, and persecuted for righteousness sake – for yours in the kingdom of heaven. (Matthew 5.3 – 12, NRSV). And at the same time, he continually condemned those in power who were responsible for the marginalized’s misery.

In our day and time, we must consider Jesus’ words and ministry like never before. His injunction to love others unapologetically still applies and this application is not up for debate if we truly do believe that the Word of God is true! In this political moment, the personhood of many immigrant and refugee groups – including Muslims and Latinos – is being called into question as leaders in our nation attempt to pass laws that exclude them. Though some Evangelical leaders suggest that this is not a biblical issue, we do not get to decide what does and what does not apply. God alone calls the shots on God’s own Word, so that if He says that we need to love, we better love. Hard! If not, we have to perhaps consider that we are not only willing to disobey His Word but may be outside of the family of God.

Remember the teacher’s question to Jesus, “What must I do to inherit eternal life?” For Jesus, love is not a matter of convenience or political expedience; it is a matter of eternal life. Period. In fact, all of the commandments and teachings of the law and the prophets hinge on this one single thing: love. To take it one step further, we cannot even say that we love God if we do not love others – we cannot despise those created in the image of God and still declare that we love God. For us, this means that we cannot say that we love God while simultaneously hating, despising, and oppressing Muslims and Latino immigrants and refugees. Also, remember God has a special heart for the foreigner in our land!

The biblical response to the Muslim Ban and the build the wall nonsense, is to love. And from the place of love, we speak up and speak out against everything that minimizes the personhood of others. We can do this in a myriad of ways including but not limited to writing letters to the editor of our local newspapers, speaking to our family and friends about the importance of resisting despotic policies, joining in protests that affirm the rights and dignity of the oppressed, or informing other Christians about what is going on. The form in which we engage and use our influence as believers is not as important – what is important is that we do something to extend God’s love in this moment.

#AllOurChildren

allchildrenPicture this:

You have just found out you are pregnant. Only four weeks along at this point. You go home to give the news to your husband who is absolutely ecstatic. He wants twin boys, you desperately want a girl. Either way, it really doesn’t matter – all you really want and hope is for a healthy baby who will grow big and strong in your belly over the next 10 months (anyone who has ever been pregnant really knows it’s ten months).

Weeks pass. And with the weeks come bouts of morning sickness and fatigue. You can no longer fit your clothes because even though you’ve been throwing up like crazy, that baby is growing. You eliminate all hints of caffeine and sodium nitrate from your diet, because the doctor told you so. You give up any potentially dangerous activities such as biking and skating, just in case you fall. You harbor mixed feelings of caution, excitement and anxiety as you wait for this process to be over.

You are now twenty weeks. The sonogram reveals you are carrying a precious baby girl – God has answered your prayers! You enroll in Bradley classes because you insist on having the baby naturally, without meds. Your friends throw you a baby shower, getting you just about everything you need for your newest addition. You and your husband spend a Friday evening picking up everything else and the rest of the weekend decorating the baby’s room. Clothes are ironed and put away. The crib is all set up and ready to be used. All you are waiting for is a baby to put in it.

It’s now D-Day (delivery day). No labor pains just yet. You eat pineapples and sit forward all day long, hoping to kick the process off. You go for long walks in the evening and are officially sick and tired of being pregnant. And then it happens. Labor starts and slows and starts and slows and then your water breaks, You are off to the hospital and 24 hours later you are holding your beautiful baby girl. You are ecstatic. You have spent the last 10 months waiting for this moment and now it is here.

You are discharged a few days later and go home to settle into your new routine of being a parent. Sleepless nights, constant feedings, and poopy diapers all become part of your new normal. But so does this overwhelming need to protect this defenseless child in your arms. You only want the best for her. You dream of her going to school, making friends, and doing well as she finds her place in the world. You even hope that one day she will start a family of her own, and have the experience of holding her own baby girl in her arms.

I can guarantee that all parents want this for their children. Every parent wants to love, protect, and care for their child and only wants the best for the child that they carried, nursed and changed for so many years. No parent wants to see their child suffer. No parent wants to see their child without hope. No parent wants to see their child’s prospect of a future diminish, only to be replaced with the threat of death.

And so that is why mothers and fathers across Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala sent their children miles away from their homes and to the United States – they did not want to see them face death. As violence and extortion from their countries waged on, these parents only hoped that the future of these children they carried could be different. They did not send them merely hoping that their children would have a better life; they sent them hoping and praying that they would live.

It seems like many Americans are not understanding this point – these kids are fleeing for their lives, hoping to find refuge in a country that is safe and secure. Instead, many protest and rage and call them illegals, tell them to go home and demand that our nation’s leaders to deport them quickly. But where is our compassion and understanding? Are we really saying that it is better to send them back to a place where it is highly probable that they will be killed? Are we really saying that we don’t give a damn about their futures, about their lives, about their hopes and prayers that we are willing to deport them?

If so, shame on us! Shame on us for not caring. Shame on us for not empathizing with the actions of their parents – for a parent to send away their kids, you have to know that their situation must be desperate.

But more than this, shame on us for not seeing these kids in the same light that we see our own. For not hoping for their children the same way we hope for ours. For not wanting to protect their children the same way we fight to protect ours. And this is where the problem lies – we do not see how these children are anything like our own, with feelings, hopes and fears like our own.

But someone cared for them, the same way we care for ours.

Someone nursed them, the same way we nurse ours.

Someone birthed them, the same way we birth ours.

Someone sacrificed sleep for them, the same way we give up our sleep for ours.

Someone hoped and prayed for them, the same way we hope and pray for ours.

These children are as our own children. Indeed, they are #allourchildren.

#45kCount