I live 450 miles from the Pacific Ocean, in a house that is mine, in a neighborhood that is clean, in a nation that is democratic. I went to school, all the way through a university, even, so I know how to read and think and deduce and reason, and the news of the world is easily accessible to me through every screen within my reach. I live in a first world democratic nation and I live 450 miles from an ocean, so the news I read about millions of refugees protesting in front of train tracks and drowning in the ocean and risking their children’s lives to leave a home where their children have no lives:
This news causes me little harm.
It is upsetting in the way that a car crash with victims I did not know is upsetting. It is upsetting in a way that says, yes, this is all bad, this is very sad. But those are people far away from me and I have problems here, too, and there’s nothing I can do to change a corrupt system run by evil people, so I’m gonna concentrate on my own kids and my own problems and wistfully recall the days when things didn’t seem quite so bad.
Or maybe I will rail against the evil people and feel sorry for the victims, for a little while, and then when the news cycle changes, I will go back to forgetting all of the oceans and all of the people, and hope that something changes, someday.
This is all easy to do. And it is tempting to do, because I am lazy and fearful and nervous about my place in the world. But as a Christian, as someone who claims that Jesus is real and that my life is not my own, as someone who says I believe what Jesus said? I cannot merely acknowledge wrongdoing and wring my hands in worry, or start exhorting the importance of a judicial and bureaucratic response to crisis.
Instead? I have to start moving.
You know what bothers me about a guarded or apathetic response from Christians concerning the tortuous existence of war-torn people? It’s the fact that in order to be flippant, dismissive, or even just choose to be ignorant concerning the facts, we must first forget our own desperate need. If we want to close ranks, murmuring with righteous indignation,
“But they have to do it legally,” or, “This isn’t our problem,”
we must first tuck away the notion that we are nothing without Jesus.
What fools we are to imagine ourselves anything but refugees, clinging to the side of a boat in a desperate search for home. When we see the pictures and hear the stories of these refugees, we ought to absorb the wild plea in their eyes and recognize that plea in ourselves. We ought to cry out for justice, wail with grief for the plight of those without a home, because we are they. We ought to come alongside them as fellow travelers. Fellow sufferers.
We ought to grasp the reality that the physicality of their situation is an outward expression of the desolation and longing in each one of us, and consider the fleeing ones not as other but as ourselves.
Because we all long for home.
We are all desperate for permanence.
We are all willing to climb aboard a flimsy boat without worrying about a life jacket, a boat by many different names:
We are all willing to climb aboard our own useless dinghy because we don’t think there is any other choice. So how can we believe anything about ourselves besides the fundamental truth that we are just as far from home as those who cross the wild waves?
The gospel is the answer for every refugee. Those who are drowning in the Mediterannean and those who are drowning in sorrow. Those who have nothing and those who have everything. The Gospel lets us all walk on water. The Gospel parts the sea. The Gospel says, You are not yet home. You feel displaced, desolate. But listen! Hope has come. God has set eternity on the hearts of man so that we can live in peace amidst the chaos, knowing our true home awaits. I can have peace in this place because I know who I am and Who loves me.
We are all refugees wandering this life-
but we are not without hope.
I pray that I will never forget the truth of my situation. May I never let the comforts of my walls and my floor, my paycheck and my mobility, erase the pulsing memory of who I am. I am a refugee. I cannot look at any other refugee with anything but solidarity and a quickening need to take action.
But also: I am a refugee with hope, because I know that home is coming.
Be careful to examine your response to the visceral images and ugly realities of the broken and abused, those who seek refuge:
Do you respond as a fellow refuge seeker,
a brother or sister who knows the longing for
life and hope?
Or do you respond from the padded throne of those kings
who have forgotten their own humanity,
their own great need,
have rewritten their prosperity as a construct of their own hands rather than
based on birthplace and significant social imbalance?
My security comes from God alone. Every breath. Every movement. Every heart beat. The table I am typing on and the children who call me mother: none of it belongs to me. I am a wanderer who aches for home, and I ache with those who wander beside me. Break my heart again and again, Jesus, for those who are chased and those who are lost. My fellow travelers. My people in the room next door and my people across the sea. May I exist in the reality of my condition and reach out beyond myself to those whom the world considers least.
Remember, remember, wanderers. Let the pain rise up in you like a bile as you consider what evil has done, and let Hope triumph one day at a time in your response. Remember the frantic poverty of your own humanity, and be courageous in the face of scandalous apathy.
The world makes us all wanderers;
the Gospel welcomes all home.
Three tangible, immediate, realistic means to help:
- International- http://wewelcomerefugees.com/
- Local- http://www.gatesofhope.net/
- Local- http://www.anaidaho.org/
*All images linked to original source