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This past weekend, President Donald Trump signed an executive order regarding immigration and refugees that he hopes will “make America safe again.” It has caused a bit of a stir, positively and negatively.
I saw one religion reporter tweet over the weekend, “The only ecumenical issue in the country right now seems to be an opposition to the immigration ban.” That made me laugh, because I think she’s right. In a country so divided as of late, I counted dozens of people on the political right and political left writing and speaking against the executive order in the last few days.
But I also saw a number of my Christian, politically-conservative friends saying things like, “It’s our country’s job to protect us, and our church’s job to love the sojourner, not the other way around.” I understand this sentiment, too. One of the vital roles of government is protecting its people from those who may wish to bring harm.
As an American Christian in a world in which that makes me the target of terrorist organizations, I ask myself the question, “To what extent should I pursue my own safety?”
Some people would say, in regard to inviting refugees to America or other such acts of kindness, “If you truly trust Jesus, you won’t be afraid of safety, you’ll just love people like Jesus did.”
Ok, I get it. But I would ask that same person, “Do you lock your doors at night? If so, couldn’t you be shutting out someone who needs to slip into your house to escape danger?” Or, “Do you pick up every hitchhiker on the side of the road?” Few of us leave our doors unlocked or pick up hitchhikers because most of us would “rather be safe than sorry.”
All of us value safety to some extent—it’s why we lock our doors, install security systems, and protect our email accounts with passwords. We value safety because we understand the reality and extent of sin in the world.
I don’t think it’s wrong to want to be safe. I don’t think you should leave your door unlocked at night in case a passerby needs a place to stay, and I don’t expect you to pick up any random hitchhiker on the road.
But the question is this: where do we draw the line?
When is it wrong to pursue physical safety?
Wanting to be safe isn’t wrong, I don’t think, but I do think our pursuit of physical safety can endanger our souls.
If you want to block refugees because you think they might behead you, or
if you avoid a missions trip because you’re afraid of drinking some bad water, or
if you homeschool your kids because you’re afraid of the kinds of kids that go to public schools,
you have to wonder how much you actually trust that the Lord to sustain you in your pursuit of him.
Even so, God doesn’t promise to protect you from the sinful acts of others.
If your concern for safety takes away from your ability to share the gospel, you have to start to wonder if you value your temporary life more than your neighbor’s eternal life, right?
At what point is “our desire to keep our country safe” really just a guise for “I don’t trust God enough to deliver me into eternal life if I die here?”
I don’t really know, to be honest.
For instance, I think the United States should allow refugees to come here, but I don’t want to house a homeless person for the night. Am I a hypocrite? Probably. It seems I trust God in one instance but not in another.
The tone of this blog post is intentionally interrogative and not declarative because I am asking myself all of these questions. This stuff isn’t easy.
I am working hard not to pass judgment on those who support or detest the banning of refugees and immigrants because I too often value safety instead of love myself.
My hope is that the United States can be a place that accepts refugees and immigrants from all places, no matter what nefarious activity may exist in their home countries, but I want it to sufficiently protect its people as well.
As I have been writing this blog post, I have really been convicting myself. If it sounds messy, that’s good, because that’s how I feel about all of this.
I do know this, though: I don’t dance the line of “dangerous love” enough.
The Good Samaritan took a risk stopping to help the man beaten by robbers, and I aspire to such risk, but too often I protect myself from it.
I am never the priest or the Levite who passes by the battered man on the road because, in my sin, I avoid those kinds of roads entirely.
If you’re mad at the United States for banning refugees, but you wouldn’t host one in your home, check your heart.
I want to believe I would, but I haven’t taken any steps toward that end.
So, while I want our country to be a warm, welcoming place for all peoples from all places and backgrounds, I am working hard to reserve judgment of those who don’t until I gauge the grasp of gospel love in my own heart.
At what point does our pursuit of safety hinder our pursuit of Christlikeness?
I’m not sure, but I think it has for me.