Archives For Social Justice

A lament

My heart is heavy from a Bible that says defend the oppressed and a Church that says just preach Jesus.

Just preach Jesus, but don’t preach anything he stood for or taught.  I will leave your church if you do.

Don’t preach about touching lepers or loving the poor or proclaiming liberty to captives and setting the oppressed free or loving your neighbor or welcoming the stranger as if they are Jesus himself or how the Samaritan is today’s Mexican or Muslim.

Just preach Jesus.  Continue Reading…

I didn’t grow up around immigrants or refugees.  When undocumented immigrants started coming across my news radar a few years ago, I was confused.  I figured a person could just go to the Secretary of State’s office and apply for citizenship and be on their way, so why weren’t these immigrants doing just that?

I genuinely praise God for a newfound education into the immigration system.  I’ve been convicted about the aggressive way I’ve recently approached this issue and have apologized and grown from that.  What I hope to do here is help others who are asking the same questions I was a few years ago by offering some factual and gentle information:

4 Misconceptions: Continue Reading…

This past Sunday night in our small group, we came upon the following verse from 2 Timothy 2:25:

Opponents must be gently instructed, in the hope that God will grant them repentance leading them to a knowledge of the truth

It hit me pretty clearly that I have not been doing this in the past week in my blog articles about Donald Trump, immigration and refugees.

Whenever I see the poor, vulnerable and oppressed and I see Scripture that tells me to defend them, I can easily become over-emotional.  I can relate with Peter when he cuts off the Roman guard’s ear during Jesus’s arrest (John 18:1-14).  He’s probably just doing his best Elijah impersonation, thinking God will be pleased with his zeal.  Instead he gets put in his place by Jesus, the revealed King of an upside-down kingdom.

While the zeal I have for the oppressed is truly rooted in Scripture and in compassion, it also gets mixed up with my own pride.  Pride that I’m right.  Pride that is impatient.  Pride that is judgmental.  Pride that reverts to name calling, quick fixes, and black-and-white, for-me-or-against-me thinking.  Pride that is sin.

I will go to a conference or training on some element of caring for the oppressed and come home high as a kite on all my zeal.  I’ll tell my wife all about it and my new enlightened wisdom (and essentially how she and the Church are failing).  This upchucking of zeal isn’t helpful at all.  It short-circuits the chance for anyone to learn and it short-changes the process God uses to teach us things.  A slow, gradual, humble process.

With immigration reform, I got sucked in.  I was reading some blog posts from Christian activists and started zealously typing myself.  I wanted in on this.  I wanted to be on the right side of history, with my name next to the oppressed, and I didn’t care who I had to fight to do it.

The thing is, Jesus never fought.

Fighting comes from pride.  It also comes from thinking we are in control and have the power…again signs of pride.

In addition, we all have biases we bring to the text of Scripture.  All of us; myself definitely included.  We need to do our very best to objectively strip away these biases, but the only way to do that is with humility.  And if we notice bias others are bringing with them, we must not act as if we ourselves are not encumbered with the same disability.  We must speak the truth in love.

Which of course can only come be accomplished with humility.

I know I need to change how I talk and write about biblical justice issues in the future.  And I know I will indeed continue talking and writing about these topics, I don’t really have a choice.  To attempt not to would result in the same response Jeremiah had in Jeremiah 20:9,

his word is in my heart like a fire,
    a fire shut up in my bones.
I am weary of holding it in;
    indeed, I cannot.

I am going to do my best to slow things down.  Frankly, I’ll take any advice those reading this can give me.  To not make things so black-and-white, for-me-or-against-me, like there are only two options or two ways to apply or interpret a Scripture text.  To give the benefit of the doubt.  To show respect to how the other side came to its conclusions.  To do my best to humbly, lovingly and gently lay out the factual or Scriptural items that took me from Point A to Point B so that people who are at Point A can receive it and see if the Lord is leading them to Point B as well.  He might not be.  Or it might not be this second.  But that’s the beauty of the Lord being in control and the Lord using his words and education to grow us.  We’re all wired differently and he’s going to work on us differently, with different timing and in different areas, in different ways.

To my brothers and sisters in Christ that I’ve offended with my zeal, to those who feel I’ve cut off their ears, I sincerely apologize.  Please know my heart is rooted in Scripture and being faithful to every page of it.  Pray for me as I learn what “faithful” means.  Pray that faithful is mixed with grace and humility rather than the silent assassin of pride.

An apology post I wrote after reflecting on how I’ve written about Trump and immigration / refugee policy

Romans 13:1-2, 4-5

Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God.  Consequently, whoever rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves…  For the one in authority is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for rulers do not bear the sword for no reason. They are God’s servants, agents of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer. Therefore, it is necessary to submit to the authorities…

These verses seem to indicate we are to do whatever our governmental leaders tell us, and if we don’t, or if we resist it, it is like we are disobeying or resisting God.  If only it were that simple.  A few quotes from Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. from his “Letter from a Birmingham Jail” muddy the waters quite quickly:

I would agree with St. Augustine that “an unjust law is no law at all.”

We should never forget that everything Adolf Hitler did in Germany was “legal”

In fact, the majority of Dr. King’s letter dealt with this tricky biblical subject as he faced the brutal oppression of “legal” Jim Crow laws, which most white Christians argued must be followed based on Romans 13:1-5.  This was no different than white Christians justifying slavery a century earlier for the same reason.

Yet, there has always been Christian resistance to these legal movements.  Christians who saw the governmental law in stark contrast to God’s law in the Scriptures; they saw it as the sin it was and would not let themselves be complicit in it.

Christians who harbored Jews in Nazi Germany.

Christians who helped run The Underground Railroad.

Christians like Dr. King who led the Civil Rights Movement.

Not the mention the modern day global Christians living in countries where it is illegal to be a Christian, to attend church, to own a Bible, etc.

Or consider this Scriptural wrench from Acts 4 thrown into the engine of the Romans 13 argument: Continue Reading…

An apology post I wrote after reflecting on how I’ve written about Trump and immigration / refugee policy

It’s really very simple:

Jesus says when we invite in strangers, we are inviting him in, and when we feed and clothe and help those who are sick, we are doing so to him.  Directly to him.  He also says those who do this are included in those who enter heaven.  And he says that those who don’t do this are included in those who go to hell.

I’m not making a grandiose theological statement here, I’m just telling you, simply, what Jesus said.  Don’t take it from me, hear it directly from Jesus’s lips: Matthew 25:31-46.

What is a stranger?  In the Bible this word is the same word used to describe foreigners and aliens throughout the Old Testament, where God over and over again commanded his people to welcome, love, include, and care for the foreigner and the alien, especially when they were poor and vulnerable.

A stranger is an undocumented Mexican immigrant and it is a Syrian refugee and, according to Matthew 25:31-46, it literally is Jesus.

Let alone Jesus’s parable of the Good Samaritan in Luke 10:25-37, his direct response to the question, “Who is my neighbor?” which of course followed his teaching that the 2nd greatest commandment is to love your neighbor.  He says our neighbor is the one who is of a different race from us, someone culture and our government tells us to hate and avoid, and that when we see them sick and vulnerable and oppressed, we are to love them the same way Jesus loved us on the cross.  We are to bandage them and give our money to care for them and protect them.  We are to include them and treat them as fellow humans created in the image of God.

Image credit: Sojourners (click to visit)

So that’s what Jesus says.

But Donald Trump says he’s going to build a wall to keep all the strangers out.

And he’s going to kick out all of the strangers from our country.

And he’s going to punish those who try to help strangers.

Because strangers are dangerous people!  (But Donald Trump isn’t…?)  All these strangers I’ve met are some of the most beautiful people on the planet and they have only enriched my life and my city in ways words can’t describe.

As President Trump unveils his executive actions of exclusion against the very people Jesus tells us to welcome, it really is crunch time, Christians.

The rubber is hitting the road.

Jesus says, “If you love me, you will obey what I command.” (John 14:15; John 14:23)  So, do you and will you?

It’s time for you to face possible persecution (didn’t look like you thought it would, did it?).

Will you follow what Jesus says or what Donald Trump says?

As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord. (Joshua 24:15)

Click to take Sojourners’ Matthew 25 pledge. You’ll receive a full suite of free toolkits and organizing resources, as well as access to a network of justice advocates just like you.

Further Reading:

Sojourners’ article “American Christianity has Failed” by Stephen Mattson

CHURCH LEADERS: A Call to Prayer for Refugees and Immigrants by World Relief’s James Misner