This past week has been a difficult week to be a Christian with access to the internet.
Between the bombings in Europe and the Middle East and the ongoing refugee crisis, I have found myself painfully reminded that we live in a world that seems to have a never-ending string of sadness and brokenness. What is also true, is that we live in a world where God has chosen and designated a special group of people to get out there and be the solution to all of this brokenness– but that group of people (and I’m talking about us here) seem to terribly miss that mark so often.
In a world where people say, “Yikes folks, we have a ton of refugees; they need a safe place to stay and will need to be taken care of” the Church of Jesus Christ should be standing up and shouting, “Hey– that’s actually our job. Send them to us and we’ll take care of it.”
While there are some saying that, the Church certainly isn’t unified. For every voice that says, “We’ve got it covered” there seems to be another that responds with, “But wait, we have homeless vets– we have to take care of our own first!” and, “This would be stupid, we shouldn’t let killers into our homes!”
Honestly, in the span of a week I’ve heard it all. Calls to build the Trump Wall™ like it were the Great Wall of China, comparing refugees to child molesters, and a near constant wave of dehumanization of the world’s needy. All this, in order to make it more palatable to just let someone else do what the Church was put on earth to do– or to just let them die, which is a more likely scenario for many. Honestly, as I’ve looked at the words American Christians have said about refugees this past week, I felt like I imagine Jesus must have felt when he wept over Jerusalem, knowing that Israel had for the final time, rejected God.
Our problem folks, is that we’re so busy thinking like Americans that we forget to think like Christians.
You see, Jesus said that his Kingdom was “not of this world.” Jesus came to establish a culture that was unlike anything a nation state could ever provide– a Kingdom with a certain set of values so unique, they’d never be found anywhere else. As people of the Kingdom, we are called to pledge our allegiance to the Kingdom, and to live by the Kingdom principles Jesus established. That’s the foundation of being a Christian– entering Christ’s Kingdom, and expanding it to the corners of the earth.
But as long as we think like Americans, we’ll never think like Christians– because we’re talking about two entities that are in opposition to one another. You can think like one, or you can think like the other, but you can’t think like both at the same time.
“You cannot serve two masters” Jesus warned.
As Americans we’re concerned about the future of our country, we worry about our borders being violated, we’re concerned about how big of a portion of our money we get to keep for ourselves, and a host of other issues that are pertinent to life in America. However, as Christians, we are concerned about the Kingdom of God– one that is different than America, and one that has a different culture than America.
When we think like an American, we are concerned primarily with “me” and “us” but those concerns are antithetical to Kingdom concerns. Jesus warned that a condition of becoming one of his disciples– a condition of becoming a Christian– was that we stop being primarily concerned with ourselves, that we reject the ideology of keeping more for ourselves, reject self-preservation, and become people who think and live differently.
The Kingdom of God is not concerned with building walls, but tearing them down.
The Kingdom of God is not concerned with having more, but giving more.
The Kingdom of God says, “Refugees? That’s why we exist– we’d love to help.”
But, in order to think like a Christian, in order to begin thinking like a Kingdom-person, we have to stop thinking like Americans– because those two entities have an entirely different set of concerns and goals.
As Christians we are immigrants and exiles living in a foreign country and hold our citizenship elsewhere. During our stay we will be tempted to adopt the identity of our host nation and will be tempted to follow the gods of this land– the gods of “me” and “ours.” In this regard I find words of Joshua quite fitting as he addressed an Israel that was divided between serving God, or the gods of their culture. In the speech, Joshua reminded them of the choice between serving God, and serving the gods of the land they found themselves in. He said, “If serving the Lord is undesirable to you, then go ahead and choose who you want to serve– whether it’s your ancestors or their gods.”
“But for me and my family?” Joshua said, “We will serve the Lord.”
Joshua knew what we forget– you can serve the gods of the land you live in, or you can serve the Living God, but you can’t serve both. You’ll have to pick one.
I pray today we’ll think about that. You can serve the gods of America, or you can serve Jesus, but you can’t serve both. You can be loyal to the Kingdom, or loyal to America, but you can’t be equally loyal to both.
You can think like an American, or you can think like a Christian.
I pray we’ll start thinking like Christians– because the world is waiting on us.