Last Friday, with one stroke of his pen President Trump swept away more than two centuries of American history in which we prided ourselves on our generosity, our goodness and our commitment to embrace the oppressed. He replaced it with fear and self-interest. With that same stroke of his pen, he struck through the famous words inscribed on the Statue of Liberty: “"Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!"
Trump’s order prohibited travel from seven mostly-Muslim nations. None of the terrorists who successfully carried out attacks on U.S. soil came from any of these countries.
But, we all came from somewhere.
Native Americans came first, beating all of us to this continent by a few thousand years. My “multi-great” grandfather, Thomas Tinsley, landed in Jamestown in 1638 after a risky voyage across the Atlantic. My mother’s family, the Harpers, came later from Ireland. Along with them came others from Norway, Poland, Germany, Italy, and a host of captives from Africa. They were followed by still more from Asia, including refugees from Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos. We have come from every corner of the earth. We are a nation of immigrants.
We are one nation with many ethnicities embracing every skin color and many languages. More than 90 languages are spoken in Houston. Polish is the third largest language group in Chicago with a Polish population equal to Warsaw.
We like to keep the teachings of Jesus in the tepid category. We don’t like for Him to mess with our assumptions. But this is what got Him into trouble. His teachings are radical when it comes to loving people who are different than we are.
The Jews of Jesus’ day despised Samaritans. But Jesus specifically went out of his way to enter Samaria and to visit with a Samaritan woman. When she pointed out that the Samaritans worshipped at Mt. Gerazim while Jews worshipped in Jerusalem, Jesus replied, “An hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers shall worship the Father in Spirit and in truth.”
When Jesus wanted to illustrate what it means to love our neighbor, He told of a amaritan who risked his own safety to help a stranger who had been beaten and left for dead.
When Jesus introduced himself to the synagogue in his hometown at Nazareth, he infuriated the crowd by stating that God loved the Syrians. He reminded them that Elisha healed a Syrian leper when there were many lepers in Israel. They were so enraged they tried to throw Jesus off a high cliff. (Luke 4:16-30).
Today the oppression in Syria represents the world’s greatest refugee crisis. Eleven million Syrians, more than half of them children, have fled the brutal attacks by ISIS. Most of them are Muslim. But many Christian organizations are reaching out to these refugees providing shelter, blankets, water, food and comfort. Virtually every denomination is represented as well as para-church groups like Samaritan’s Purse and World Vision.
We are always afraid and suspicious of people who are different than we are. But “perfect love casts out fear.” Isaiah says, “Hide the fugitives, do not betray the refugees. Let the fugitives stay with you; be their shelter from the destroyer. The oppressor will come to an end, and destruction will cease; the aggressor will vanish from the land.” (Isaiah 16:3-4).