One People Living in Two Worlds

 

Jesus calls his disciples into one people, yet immigration
concerns remind us how far we have to go to achieve that.

My family and I participated in an interfaith prayer and march for immigrant families last night.I had some fear when we started out. Were we putting ourselves at risk? What if some random people saw the march and decided to get violent? Events like this are seldom dangerous as they are in fact protected speech in the Constitution. However, tensions are building in this country and threats are rapidly becoming much more common. It’s worth pondering whether the rules still apply anymore.

That’s when it dawned on me: We have the luxury of choosing to take a risk or not. We could just as easily have stayed home. Many of our neighbors do not have this choice. They live with risk every day—and much larger risks. Many immigrants, refugees and asylum seekers flee for their lives from life-threatening circumstances only to live here in constant fear of harassment, violence and arrests. Those arrests may be severely punitive and lead to family separation for years while people wallow in detention centers or are deported back to hostile areas.

As it turns out, the vigil was very calm and safe, but we just didn’t know that before packing up the car and going. Maybe I was worrying needlessly, but I consider these things differently when my decisions impact my whole family and not just myself.

I think of the other fathers and mothers who pack up their children to make the trek north to the United States. It’s both a risk to stay in their home country and it’s a risk to make the journey. They want to do what’s right, they want to do what’s legal, but they also have to keep their family as safe as possible. They are caught between the choice of following the human law—which has literally drawn a line in the sand with few legal ways to cross—and their obligation to follow God’s law to care for their families.

These are good people faced with no good options, and they make the best choices they can in desperate situations. The choices, and the stakes they are facing, are so different from those of my family. Our risks are small and we can often opt out if we want to.

This is not the kind of discipleship Jesus envisioned. Jesus wanted us to be close to the poor. In fact, he expected it (Mark 14:7). Being close to the poor is where we will find him (Matthew 25:31-46). The New Testament is filled with stories of Jesus reaching out to people who have been marginalized, excluded and demeaned in one way or another, and he is clear that he wants us to follow in his Way.

Live in harmony with one another; do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly; do not claim to be wiser than you are. (Romans 12:16)

I think back to the interfaith march. We were worried whether the juice in the sippee cup was a cool enough temperature and if we remembered to leave the TV on so the dog doesn’t feel lonely. The immigrants we are praying for are worried about how many rapes they may have to endure on the trek north to save their family from an even worse harm. They hope against hope that the days with little to no food will not have a permanent impact on their children.

Jesus calls one people together over and over in Scripture, but it is clear we live in two worlds. There are far too many Christians living a comfortable lifestyle with middle-class means who feel they are in a position to make decisions about the lives of immigrants, refugees and asylum seekers. These Christians have not done one of the most basic requirements of discipleship mandated by Jesus himself:  Being close to the poor, so close that onlookers would think you were one and the same. This march reminds me that I have a long way to go in my discipleship. It reminds me to be humble along the way and not pretend to be an expert on the lives of people who live and work near me but whose lives are sometimes unimaginably different.

Visit Frank Lesko’s website here.

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