23 November 2015

I wish you would leave your doors unlocked tonight

I wish you would leave your doors unlocked tonight. It is my hope that you would stop thinking ill about your neighbors who have never once broken into your home and did any damage. I want you to stop thinking maliciously about those who live in your vicinity, thinking that they are evil people when in fact they are just trying to do the best for their own families. I wish you would demonstrate love through your unlocked doors, and use this symbolic act as a means of opening your hearts to your neighbor.

And if you choose not to leave your house unlocked, may I question your commitment to Christ?

Those of you that know me well will clearly hear my tone in this, and probably can anticipate the point that I am making. Of course, I speak about the Syrian refuge situation that has happened in the last few weeks. Actually, to be more specific, I wish to speak about the discussion surrounding that issue, for I believe there is a much deeper problem.

Over the past few weeks I, along with every other American who is not in a coma, have been inundated with the political situation of Syrian refugees. We didn't ask to be bombarded by this topic, but that is part and parcel of our culture, especially if we are going to be plugged into any sort of news outlet. It is unfortunate and unnerving that such 'reporting' has been riddled with inaccuracies, skewing the reaction of various groups one way or another. There is very little rational thought going on, which is why it has seemingly taken over Facebook and Twitter – bastions of unreflective thought and win-the-moment catchphrase memes.

The shocking moment, for me, was when those who want to see a political solution of accepting everyone who claims to be a Syrian refuge without question began to connect this to matters of commitment to Christ. Yes, I started to see articles and posts online that unabashedly asserted: If you don't accept refugees then you can't claim to follow Christ, and the like. Seriously?!?! So it appears that certain wings of the church have surrendered their unity of the Holy Spirit to political ideology. This is using an overly-generalized approach to what is, in reality, a complex geo-political situation is now the basis for judging the commitment of another believer, and this is disturbingly wrong.

While I appreciate the desire to love the least of these in the name of Jesus, should we be so quick to condemn the faith of our brothers and sisters, especially in such a public way? Firstly, wide-sweeping public condemnations like this do not reflect well on the unity of the church, and that is fairly obvious as witness to the world. But, secondly, wide-sweeping public condemnations like this do not take into account the perspective of your brothers and sisters in the faith, especially those with whom you have never dialogue about this issue. Is it Christ-like to criticize the church community for the sake of reaching out to the unchurched? Is that what Jesus meant by the world knowing that we are his followers by our love for one another?

What is more, the culture in which we live makes me stop and take pause for writing a post that criticizes an opinion that is popular in the mainstream, which means that many will simply ignore these words and, again, place political ideology above the unity of the gospel. We have come once again to a sad moment in the history of the church. Our is not the first generation to arrive at this point, and we will watch the gospel's increasing ineffectiveness so long as we surrender its power to the socio-political positions of our day. Somewhere along the way we took the freedoms of speech and religion as a means to become shrill and shallow in our public faith, rather than use them for their intention of cultivating a lifestyle worthy of the gospel.

When the church behaves this way, we surrender the battle.

So, why aren't you leaving your doors unlocked tonight? I know some of you live in less-than-desirable neighborhoods, but many of us are in relatively crime-free zones. In fact, in all my life I have been blessed with never having a home invasion – not even an attempted one – just like many of you. What is more, I pray each night that God would watch over our home and keep us safe from all harm. And then, on my way to bed I make my last round of checking locks and doors, and then pull up the covers on three little children who are well on their way to a good night's rest.

I lock the doors because, even though I believe in the power of prayer and trust in God's protection, I live in a real world with real dangers and threats to my family. They have never once tried to enter my home, but I know that they are there and that such a possibility exists in my world. I do not think ill toward my neighbor, and I am not in fear in my community. But there are realities in my world that remind me to be diligent in watching over my family – the same as every family in the history of the world. And I would never think someone was being un-Christian for locking their doors even more tightly than mine – for that home exists in the real world, one that might even be more real than mine.

Let me simply say that there are good reasons for being thoughtful and cautious when dealing with a large group of people – too many for our bureaucracy to handle at one time – who come from a region of the world that constantly threatens, both verbally and in terrorist action, the very way of life that characterizes my family and faith. This does not mean that I hate these people or that I have no concern for their well-being – that is another false accusation that is both mean-spirited and shallow. In reality, my concern is not simply for these refugees, but also for the thousands of Christians who are being beaten, persecuted, crucified and worse while our mainstream media and government choose to look the other way. I guess they don't have as good of a PR department, even among Christians who are too busy condemning other Christians for ignoring the plight of the refugee.

So, there you have it. My one-paragraph response to the Syrian refugee situation, and I didn't even commit to one particular plan-of-action or ideological approach. I didn't want to leave you without closing the loop on that one. But I doubt if there is anything there that should call my faith into question, even though a thousand Facebook memes speak in protest. I guess I will just have to learn to accept that the world of Twitter will not embrace my faith as it stands. (......aaaand done.)

As I stated above, my primary concern is that we can speak the truth in love, just as scripture has instructed us to do. We might wonder if what our brothers and sisters are saying is indeed truth, but that should never override the fact that we can speak in love.

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