‘For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’ They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’
He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’
I love that passage in the Bible.
I love it, and it makes me a little bananas, too.
It serves as a reminder to me that every single person I encounter is a beloved child of God. Me. You. Kim Kardashian. Mother Teresa. Donald Trump. The Dalai Lama.
The terrorists in Paris.
Aylan, the little boy on the beach.
All of us.
And like a parent, He loves us all equally. You may not always approve of what your children believe, or what they DO with those beliefs, but you still love them, right?
Those terrorists in Paris? God loves them. They break His heart, but He loves them. I break His heart. I’m willing to bet you do, too. I think the tendency is to go quickly to prioritizing- both virtues and sins. We all desperately want God to judge on a sliding scale. We so hope He grades on the curve.
I do not think it works that way, my friends.
I have seen in the past couple of days several memes going around that say, essentially, “As long as there are homeless veterans, we cannot accept Syrian refugees,” or, “When we are taking care of all of our children here at home, we can afford to take in refugee children.”
I’m sorry, but that is such a load of crap. It just IS.
It is unconscionable that any veteran of the United States’ armed forces should be without a safe, warm place to live. It is unthinkable that we have so many homeless, neglected children who frequently go to bed hungry.
Neither of those things has a single thing to do with being a safe harbor for persecuted refugees. Not one. single. thing.
A week or so ago, people were all kerfuffled about the Starbucks cups being de-snowflaked. And then even MORE people were kerfuffled about the kerfuffled people. How petty does that seem in the aftermath of the Paris attacks? The truth is it was always petty, but sometimes we get distracted by shiny things.
We like to care about things that cost us nothing. We prefer to champion the cause of least resistance.
Anyway, in the midst of that, I decided to shift my perspective a little. I tallied up what I normally spend at Starbucks a week, multiplied it by the number of weeks til Christmas. It came out to about $70-$80. I decided to spend it on supplies (hats, gloves, handwarmers etc) to keep in the back of my car to give to anyone who might need them.
I guarantee my daughter has asked for something in the past few months that cost about that much, and I likely told her we couldn’t afford it.
$70 is $70 is $70. I can afford Starbucks. I can afford what she asked for. I can afford to help the homeless. It’s what I decide I care about that determines where my money goes.
It’s not or. It’s AND. We have always, since the beginning of this country, found a way to afford the things we deem important.
The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs spent $175 million during 2010 to maintain hundreds of buildings that it does not even use. It seems like all those empty buildings could, y’know, house some homeless veterans, or the $175 million could potentially be used to pay their rent in other buildings. In 2005, $452 million was earmarked for what would eventually become known as the Bridge to Nowhere in Alaska. It seems like some of that funding could have been re-routed to house little kids and their families. To put some food on their tables.
I find it troubling that so many of the voices I hear constantly touting this country as a Christian nation are the same ones saying we should not allow Syrian refugees. You cannot have it both ways.
I saw on Twitter yesterday that the governor of my home state of Massachusetts has decided to join the growing list of governors refusing to accept Syrian refugees. The governors of my adopted states of Washington and Connecticut have both said they will. The truth is, they all will because those governors lack the power to make that call.
Then I heard that Jeb Bush suggested we only accept Christian refugees, which I think is a fairly astounding statement by a Christian heading into a season that celebrates the birth of Jesus, whose family fled to Egypt seeking safety for their child.
Jesus Christ was a refugee, and he wasn’t Christian.
I know these are dangerous times and many people are making decisions from a place a fear. We can be better than that, though. I believe that. We are called to be better than that.
The evil acts of a few do not relieve us of our responsibility to help end the suffering of the many.
Remember Aylan? Remember that tiny little boy on the beach?
Listen, being a Christian is totally inconvenient. It’s the worst. Love thy enemy, turn the other cheek. Care for orphans and widows. The last shall be first. As faiths go, it’s a total pain in the butt.
It is also why I love it so much.
If my sister is hungry, it is my responsibility to feed her. If my brother is thirsty, I am called to pass him the cup without stopping to fret about how it is decorated.
I saw something Jen Hatmaker said a while back during the annual back to school insanity. It was regarding something to do with school lunches I think. She said, essentially, “I can’t care about everything.”
I busted out laughing. It’s true. We pick and choose.
I only have so much bandwidth, emotionally. I see the things that some people are up in arms about, and I think to myself- “GOOOD. I am so glad you are caring about that. That’s not in my heart, to fight for that particular thing. Someone probably should, though. Glad you’re doing it.”
I think if we choose to allow Syrian refugees safe harbor here, we will have to figure it out. We’ll have to decide on some security measures. We’ll have to shift some funding around. We’ll have to prioritize.
It is what we always do when we decide we care about something.
If we don’t, I do not want to hear one single politician talk about their thoughts and prayers, or the state of their hearts when we are looking at another baby on another beach. I want them to for ONCE be honest and say,
“I have decided not to care about that.”