To my white evangelical brothers and sisters in Jesus, this post is primarily for you. Please don’t dismiss it. I ask that you read it with prayerful humility as I attempt to write with the same posture. This morning looking in the mirror I realized I am a white evangelical. Although I did not choose this label, it describes who I am. A caucasian of predominately European descent. A believer in the authority of the Bible, the Lordship of Jesus, and our need to be reconciled to God through the sacrifice of Christ. I never anticipated that a commitment to the scriptures and the message of Jesus would put me at odds with so many of my Bible believing brothers and sisters. But it has.
Years ago I visited the holocaust museums in both Washington D.C. and Jerusalem, created to remind our world of the horrors inflicted as Hitler’s Nazi regime systematically killed six million European Jews between 1933-1945. These places left a lasting impression- the exhibits, the pictures, and especially the stories of unthinkable suffering and persevering courage displayed so we would remember. Why would the creators of these museums want these memories to become etched in our minds and hearts? So that this will never happen again.
One story that especially stood out was the voyage of “the Saint Louis.” In 1939 the ocean liner set sail from Hamburg, Germany carrying 937 passengers, predominately Jewish refugees, with planned stops in Cuba and then the United States. In Cuba only a small number of passengers were allowed to disembark, while the Cuban president demanded a payment of over $500,000 to allow entry to the others. Although they had all applied for visas, the United States also denied them entry. With no place to dock, the ship returned to Europe passing so close to the United States mainland the passengers could see the lights of Miami in the dark of the night. Of the 620 passengers who returned to the European continent, only half survived the holocaust. According to a Smithsonian article this was indicative of the U.S posture towards Jewish refugees during the 1930-40s as we turned away thousands due to our government’s fear that Nazi spies would enter the US with the Jewish refugees.
I’ve sat with friends and family watching movies like Schindler’s List, The Pianist, and Band of Brothers that reveal glimpses of the holocaust. The response is almost always the same. If only we had known the extent of the horrors. If only we had a second chance.
This time we do know. History repeats itself again. There is almost global agreement we are now facing the greatest humanitarian crisis since the holocaust. We’ve seen the pictures and heard the stories with over 11 million Syrians displaced and conservative estimates of over 300,000 killed.
Many scriptures could apply to this situation, but one that especially stands out is from Proverbs 24:10-12:
10 If you faint in the day of adversity, your strength is small. 11 Rescue those who are being taken away to death; hold back those who are stumbling to the slaughter. 12 If you say, “Behold, we did not know this,” does not he who weighs the heart perceive it? Does not he who keeps watch over your soul know it, and will he not repay man according to his work?
We say we are pro-life. Many of us agree in promoting a culture that protects all life from the womb to the tomb. This conviction motivates me to promote adoption as an alternative to abortion, to care for my terminally ill father suffering the effects of alcoholism, and to share in the burden of our global refugee neighbors who’s lives swing in the balance.
We say we are pro-family. Many of us believe the family is the foundation of society and strong families make strong communities. Yet as I write this thousands of vetted Syrian families who tasted a glimpse of safety and a future for their children have been turned away and must return to navigating dangers we choose not to imagine.
We say we are pro-Jesus. Many of us agree with Apostle Paul that God has called us to be ambassadors for Jesus and ministers or reconciliation. Representing His interests trumps even our own self interests and national interests. Are we presenting an accurate representation of who Jesus is and what He values to our nation and the world?
Historically, partnerships between those seeking Jesus’ kingdom and those pursuing political power have not produced lasting fruit. Many of us
have struck a deal with the great deal maker
which we will eventually regret. The deal goes something like this: “I will give you the influential seat at my table you desire if you give me the ultimate position of power I crave.” It’s a partnership which is quickly nullifying a lasting legacy with a younger generation of Christians, alienating our spiritual brothers and sisters from minority backgrounds, and casting doubt with our global neighbors about what “Christian values” really means.
I wish at times like this Jesus would provide historical and eternal perspective so we would have a compass to guide us and a lens through which to discern what is good, right, and true. Fortunately, He did. Regardless of the posture of our government, He has made clear the priorities for His church.
31 “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his glorious throne. 32 All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. 33 He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left. 34 “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. 35 For 35 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, 36 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.’ 37 “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38 When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39 When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’ 40 “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’ 41 “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. 42 For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, 43 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.’ 44 “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?’ 45 “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.’ 46 “Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.” Matthew 22:31-46