Did you ever have a moment in your life when something happened that just took your feet out from under you? That changed how you thought about something you had been sure of just the day before? That left you reeling and a little unsure exactly who you were anymore?
Just over a week ago, I was confident in who I was and what I thought. In these times of quickly escalating world tensions, with the country divided about whether to admit Syrian refugees or not, I had thought seriously about the question. I am (mostly) conservative and live in a (mostly) conservative area where the sentiment was (mostly) anti-admission.
But I kept thinking about Jesus saying, “Come to me, all you who are weary and heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” He didn’t modify it with, “Except Muslims.”
I was settled, in my heart, that we should offer the refugees a place to come, a safe place, and we should love them. And in doing so we will be showing them the love of Jesus. It may be the only time any of them ever see Jesus in anyone. How could we not do that? Why would we not want to do that?
A week ago my feet go knocked out from under me.
Last week the worst domestic terrorist attack since 9/11 happened in my hometown. I don’t live in San Bernardino now, but I grew up there, spent the most formative years of my life there, know it like the back of my hand. I know people who were in that building when it happened; I know people who were among the first responders to the scene. I know people who lived within minutes of the house where the terrorists had enough ammunition and explosives to destroy many, many more lives than they succeeded in destroying.
And in the week since my mind and my heart have been waging war with each other. Or waging war together against my soul. Because guess what? When it’s up close and personal, when it happens in your own back yard, it is way different than when it happens someplace else. And until it happens up close and personal, you have no idea how much it will affect you.
I had no idea how much it would affect me.
More than Ft. Hood. More than Boston. More than Paris. Even more than 9/11, strangely enough. It wasn’t the same magnitude as 9/11, but it was San Bernardino. My San Bernardino. Not New York. Not Boston. Not D.C. Just sleepy little San Bernardino, a place no one had ever heard of that was now a name familiar around the world. My hometown.
I won’t bore you with the details of the war that waged in my head. Maybe some of you are fighting your own battles in your own heads. It’s not an easy one, although some people will surely castigate me for saying that. There are people so quickly and thoroughly convinced on both sides of the question that they lambast anyone who doesn’t immediately agree with them.
More people, though, I think, struggle. We struggle between our fear and our compassion.
Let me get to the point of this.
A week after my legs got knocked out from under me, I think I’ve finally got my feet on the ground again. I’ve been praying about this and thinking about it and talking to people I respect very much about it, and I’ve been looking to God’s Word. So I got up and grabbed my Bible, and it literally fell open to page 2449, which happened to be 1 Peter 3. And this is the passage:
“Finally, all of you, live in harmony with one another; be sympathetic, love as brothers, be compassionate and humble. Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult, but with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing. For,
“‘Whoever would love life and see good days must keep his tongue from evil and his lips from deceitful speech. He must turn from evil and do good; he must seek peace and pursue it. For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous and his ears are attentive to their prayer, but the face of the Lord is against those who do evil.’
“Who is going to harm you if you are eager to do good? But even if you should suffer for what is right, you are blessed. ‘Do not fear what they fear; do not be frightened.’ But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander. It is better, if it is God’s will, to suffer for doing good than for doing evil.”
That’s it in a nutshell. We need to do what Jesus would have us do. We need to do good. We need to love. 1 John 3:17-18 tells us, “If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him? Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth.”
If we, as Christians, refuse to help those who so desperately need help, who are fleeing from the very extremists we ourselves fear, then do we really have the love of Christ in us? If we believe Jesus Christ came to save all of mankind, and that He is truly The Way, yet we call for the closing of our borders to all Muslims, how many people are we denying the opportunity to ever see Christ’s love in action?
And there are millions of Muslims already in this country, born and raised here, who are our neighbors, our coworkers, our friends. They believe in peace, and kindness, and doing good rather than evil. They’re not crazed radicals, and they’re not going to kill us. But right now many of them are wondering if we’re going to kill them. Or burn their mosques. Or bully their children. We’re not the only ones living with fear. What opportunities are we losing to be witnesses for Christ to these good people when we join in the anti-Islam rhetoric?
God has not lost control of this world. God’s plan has not been derailed. God will bring to our shores the people He wants on our shores. How sad, how tragic if we turn our backs on souls that might be saved into eternal life because we are living in fear. Why should we fear? Whom should we fear? Perfect love drives out fear, and God is perfect love.
So, as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord. We will do as He commands – Love our neighbors as ourselves; do good and not evil; practice hospitality; be kind to one another; and do not fear, because the Lord our God is with us.