Let me start by raising the controversial topic of the week, and then move to the faith-related questions raised by the topic.
(Reader advisory: what follows will raise the blood pressure of some. What follows after that will raise the blood pressure of others. Hang in there with me.)
I want you to know that, personally and individually, I believe our country should do everything we can to receive the refugees. I have a number of reasons that make sense to me, some less important than others. Primarily, however, I believe that followers of Jesus are compelled to welcome others, and that it is the character of our nation to do so as well. I would be happy to talk about it with you, agree or disagree, in love.
Now, I have listened and listened well to other voices which disagree. Our national security is an issue. Our economy is already in debt. Our own house does not appear to be in order. One person's definition of vetting the refugees may seem, to another, as though nothing at all has been done to protect us. We do not know enough about these people. There are many other compelling arguments offered.
I don't expect that either of the two previous paragraphs will settle the issue for anyone, nor cause you to abandon your perspective, whatever it might be. But if you've hung in there with me this far, let me take the issue of the day and move it to the issue of our lives.
What does it mean to follow Jesus Christ?
What is the cost of following him?
In part, these questions follow the teaching from last Sunday's worship service. When faith and culture become so blurred together as to be indistinguishable, discipleship is never more than living the kind of life I want, coupled with some belief statements about God. I can be a Republican or Democrat. I can like and want the things I like and want, because I like and want them. In essence, I tell Jesus I'm willing to follow him, and ask him to lead me where I already want to go. "Lord, bless my life."
In such an expression of faith, we aren't likely to change our minds. We craft God in our image. God can be more rigid, and we can protect our loved ones and secure our borders. And those are, by the way, good things too. Or God can be more flexible, and we can welcome refugees. Also good. And by the way, I'm not unaware of the many options in-between, such as caring for people by providing safe places without welcoming them into our country.
But my point isn't really the controversial topic of the week.
My point is the lifetime journey of faith. And I'm wondering, has following Jesus ever forced you to change your mind? About anything? About the neighbor next door? Or the family member with whom you haven't spoken? Or your politics, or your money, or your time, or your work? Anything at all? (If so, I would truly love to hear some of those stories!)
We are good, in our culture, at taking positions. We are good, in our culture, at reacting rather than responding. We are good at taking a stand. Not so good at asking, "Lord, in your mercy, give us wisdom." Not so good at silence. Not so good at listening.
Not so good at actually aligning the principles of our faith with the practices of our lives.
I believe followers of Jesus, in principle, will probably disagree with one another about the Syrian refugees, for a variety of reasons. But I think this issue is really just one of many, one of many opportunities, one of countless moments in which Jesus says to us, "Follow me." And we have do decide where that is going. And we have to decide if we're going that way too. And the road may not be easy should we choose to follow.
In Christ's Love,
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