Jesus Christ, Refugee

Back in 2003 I drove past an Assemblies of God church sign that read, "Let's roll! USA! USA!" It was the run-up to the Iraq War, and the people of God were calling for bloodshed. We are doing it again. Children spill across our borders, and we hurry to send them right back into the violence they are fleeing from.

"Let the little children come to Me, and do not forbid them; for of such is the kingdom of heaven" (Matt 19:14). Jesus did not say, "As long as they have their papers, if you have room, and you are sure they don't have diseases." He certainly did not add, "As long as they're 'Merican!" We like to think Jesus was talking about being innocent like a child, but that is not how people of his day thought about kids. It was important to have children, but children themselves were not that important. That's why the disciples were shooing them away. Kids were expendable and without rights -- basically worthless. They were a lot like the kids we are chasing away from our own borders. That is what heaven will be like. It will be a place where those we have kicked out will be welcomed in.

These are not "illegal aliens." They are children looking for a better life. Actually, let me correct that. They are looking for a life. They are fleeing violence, rape, and murder. How bad do things have to be before you place your children into the hands of smugglers? The world these children are coming from is so very different than anything we can imagine, but I dare say that if we were in their situation, we would be doing the exact same thing. Isn't there some kind of "rule" in the Bible about that?

Hypocrisy like this is why people become atheists.

"No one can serve two masters" (Matt. 6:24). But that is precisely what we are doing. That is what we were doing back in 2003 when we raised our sabers in the air and called blessings upon the bombs and bullets that pierced the bodies of tens of thousands of innocents. It is what we were doing in 2001, when we lauded our Christian president's cries for vengeance. And just so the conservatives know I am not only pointing the finger at them, it is what we continue to do whenever we turn a blind eye to the remote-controlled assassinations ordered by our current Commander in Chief.

God damn it!

I know that it is poor form to swear, particularly when I am trying to persuade a diverse audience. But I am actually not swearing. Consider it a prayer. "God, damn this hypocrisy! Damn this hard-heartedness! Damn the divided loyalties of your people! We deserve it."

"The stranger who dwells among you shall be to you as one born among you, and you shall love him as yourself; for you were strangers in the land of Egypt: I am the LORD your God" (Lev. 19:34). My fellow Christians who happen to be American, if you hinder these children, these foreigners and aliens, you are not just on the wrong side of history. You are on the wrong side of the kingdom of God.

The God we serve is a God who cares about "the least of these" (Matt 25:40) - slaves, foreigners, the disenfranchised. The people we are turning away is who God is. If you want to find Jesus, stop looking into your heart. Stop looking in church. Of course, you will find Christ there. He is alive in bread and wine and the bodies that pack the pews with you on Sunday morning. But more than anything, you will find Jesus Christ where Jesus Christ said he would be: "I was a stranger and you took Me in" (Matt 25:35). We turn these children away at our own peril.

Prepare the millstones!

The author of Hebrews informs us that those who welcome strangers are sometimes welcoming angels (13:2). That is what these refugees are. "Angel" just means messenger. They are messengers of God, and they are coming to our borders, bearing a question.

What are you first -- American or Christian?

Forget about your politics or your party. Forget about what the commentator on Fox or MSNBC feeds you. Look into the faces of these children. There is Jesus. At the border. Being smuggled in under cover of darkness. Invite him in.