There it is on the news again. More refugees trying to come into our country. Fleeing from violent countries, sure to bring that violence here. What are we going to do about them? This flood of immigration, it’s going to pollute our country, turn it into another has-been destroyed by an influx of outsiders.
I hope you can hear the sarcasm through the screen. To me, this mindset seems so foreign and illogical, yet I realize it is painfully common throughout our country. This idea of a need to protect ourselves from them. An obligation to defend our culture and our people from those on the outside. We of the conservative Christian persuasion say that it is our God-given duty to protect our families that drives this desire to strengthen our borders and vet everyone that moves into our country. We build our nice little privacy fences and quietly vet every newcomer to our neighborhood.
Why do we feel such a need to protect ourselves from the perceived dangers of the rest of the world? Are we better than them, so that we reserve the privilege of protecting ourselves from the less developed when in the rest of the world our brothers and sisters don’t have the privilege of believing what they want, let alone choosing who may or may not live near them? I think the answer is that we have a flawed perspective. When you look at immigrants or people of a culture you deem inferior to your own (even within our own nation) what do you see? Do you see a threat? Are they outsiders, lessers, statistics?
Tell me this: What separates us from them? What makes us different and gives us the authority to name others threats and ourselves worthy protection? Maybe we are the more successful, the culturally superior. But what is success? It seems to me that success is simply the moment you realize that you’re consumed with first world problems.
If this is our perspective then no wonder we see a need to protect ourselves from them! We’ve deemed ourselves the more valuable person. But there’s a flaw in our perfectly prepared plan. There is no them. We need to stop looking at anyone we deem below the standards of ourselves as a less valuable person. They are us! We are them! When you turn on the news and see another immigrant in a refugee camp or a gangbanger committing another crime in the city, don’t see a threat. Look through that screen and recognize yourself. They are no different than you. They are certainly not any less human than you. They’re not a threat, or a statistic, or a problem, or a liability. They are you.
When we look at the life of Christ or the apostles we don’t see men worried about their own safety or comfort. We don’t see men concerned about the well-being of their culture. No, we see men who fearlessly went into every culture, every city, and every home without regard for their own safety. They went and loved the outsiders, the unloved, even the dangerous. They were friends of criminals and drunkards. They didn’t try to keep the Romans out of their sacred Israel. No, they accepted them, ate with them, and talked with them. In the words of the poet Propaganda, “Our Savior, He wasn’t a commuter. He moved in.”
Don’t commute. Stop coming at it from the outside, declaring all that is wrong with others without bothering to feel their pain. Move in. Meet people where they are and participate in their culture. Learn their pain, their struggles, and their joys. Don’t distance yourselves from the danger. There is no them.