The View From Here

Though our nation is in turmoil with questions about racial justice along with the uncertainty of the Corona virus it might be good if we all take a breath and remember some things we have to be thankful for. With July 4th celebrations just around the corner remember that our founding fathers began this American experiment with the revolutionary idea that all men were created equal and were given rights, not from any government but from God. Though none of the signers of the declaration were perfect; the direction that they pointed us to as a nation has been a beacon of hope for people around the world. My own grandfather came at 16 years old in 1913, escaping the poverty of Messina Italy that had been devastated by the great earthquake of 1908 that left over 50,000 dead.

Today I think of our Nepali friends who came as refugees escaping ethnic cleansing just 10 years ago. Before we lose hope imagine where any of these would have gone if America were not here.

Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, The wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door! – Inscription on the Statue of Liberty

A Pathway to Citizenship

But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name: John 1:12 KJV

Acceptance is something all of us long to experience. Feeling hopeless because of war, poverty or violence many travel across borders without documents searching for a place to belong. There is plenty of debate today over the subject of illegal immigration but no matter which side of that issue you are on it may help you to picture how Jesus was treated. In the opening chapter of the Gospel of John it is noted that Jesus came into the world, but that the world did not accept Him. In fact just after His birth Herod ordered His soldiers to kill Jesus. During His public ministry His neighbors tried throwing Him over a cliff. (Aren’t you glad you don’t live in that neighborhood!). Later some of the most powerful religious leaders of His day plotted to have Him executed. Their biggest issue was He was a threat to their power and that He wasn’t one of them.

But some welcomed Jesus. They were folks whose identity was also not well received. These were societal outsiders, like a five time divorcee from Samaria, a blind beggar, a demon possessed man who lived in a graveyard and several rough fishermen. They were accustomed to being shunned by polite society and did not hold to popular notions of acceptability. To them, the power of  Jesus’ words and the love they felt in His presence could only be explained one way – He must have come from God. That simple faith granted them a very special right: -the right to be called God’s children and accepted into citizenship in Heaven!

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The New People

For the entire ten years we lived in a rural Pennsylvania community we were considered the “New People”. I felt better when I learned that there were other “New People” just up the road from us.  They were from New Jersey and had lived there since the 1950’s!

In a more serious light the hysteria and anger over “New People” (Mexicans, Arabs, Muslims, Asians) has culminated in the most recent massacre in New Zealand. How we as Christians to respond must be linked to how Jesus responded to hatred and prejudice.  Jesus loved the immigrant, the stranger and amazingly so even His enemies. Jesus was not angry with Samaritans who had come from another place and worshipped differently than Jews.  Jesus did not protest about the brutal Roman rule or even agitate for the removal of Herod, who had murdered his cousin John the Baptist. Maybe Jesus was accepting of the “New People” because he knew what being rejected felt like. 20171231_232022

He was in the world, and the world was made through Him, and the world did not know Him.  He came to His own, and His own did not receive Him. John 1:10-11 NKJV

Change can be difficult and unsettling, especially if we feel we are threatened by those new and different circumstances. But no matter what situation we find ourselves in the only true place of peace and acceptance is not in being surrounded by “Our People”. Real peace comes as a result of being adopted into God’s family by the blood of Jesus Christ.

I was thinking how last Wednesday a friends of ours; who is one of those,  “New People” became a U.S. citizen. He and His family eat different food, speak a different language and has a different culture.  But today Raj and I both have exactly the same rights, responsibilities and privileges. In the same way, when Jesus laid down His life on the cross to pay for our sins, we gained the privilege of citizenzenship and includsion in the community of God. Yes as His children,  we may always be treated as the “New People”; but God calls us His own. How much more should we  be ready to embrace whoever He has allowed to live just down the street in our town?

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For our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, Philippians 3:20 NKJV