I just got back from Ireland, where the phrase ‘Feck it – sure it’s grand’ is a common euphemism used in everyday life and plastered across green t-shirts that Americans love to bring back as souvenirs. For those that haven’t been or aren’t familiar, feck it’s closest synonym from American vernacular is ‘damn it’. Enough with the mini-tutorial on Irish sayings…. Here’s the point: the world isn’t grand, and that’s something to be royally pissed about.
Exhibit A: The little boy in Aleppo. This is not okay. There are over 4.5 million Syrian refugees. According to the UN estimates, a quarter of a million people have been killed and another 13.5 million people are in urgent need of humanitarian assistance inside Syria(3). This is not a new crisis. I’ll spare you the heartache of revisiting the image of that little boy who drowned when his family was fleeing the violence. Suffice to say, the horror has been with us for too long. And, here’s the tough love part….too many of us tacitly accept a certain baseline misery in the world because we are too afraid or too selfish to get up off our asses and do something. These are the moments when it’s not sufficient to say that our thoughts and prayers are with them. A thousand times, YES, keep thinking and keep praying. But, DON’T STOP THERE.
Bob Goff has a popular book titled, Love Does. He says, “But the kind of love that God created and demonstrated is a costly one because it involves sacrifice and presence.” Look at the stories of Jesus. He didn’t set up an office in Nazareth or Jerusalem, where He and his buddies gathered weekly to pray, write notes of encouragement to those in need and periodically set-up a lemonade stand to raise money for charity. He went. In person. To use Bob’s terms, He offered both sacrifice and presence. The Bible isn’t ambiguous about what we are called to do for those in need. Luke 12:33-34 says, Sell your possessions and give to the poor… For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” Specific to refugees, the Old and New Testament speak of our duty to do MORE than offer our thoughts and prayers; we are to actually provide tangible assistance to the foreigner. Here’s a quick summary(4):
- Love refugees as yourself – Leviticus 19:33-34
- Leave food for the poor and foreigner – Leviticus 19:9-10
- God loves the foreigner residing among you – Deuteronomy 10:18-19
- The sin of Sodom: They did not help the poor and needy – Ezekiel 16:49
- Do not oppress a foreigner: Exodus 23:9
- Do not deprive foreigners among you of justice – Malachi 3:5
- Do whatever the foreigner asks of you – 1 Kings 8:41-44
- Leave your door open to the traveler – Job 31:32
- Invite the stranger in – Matthew 25:25-36
- Love your neighbor as yourself – Galatians 5:14
- Have mercy on your neighbor – Luke 10:29-37
Jesus said it best when He said, “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you…” (John 15:12) Shall I unpack that verse for you or do you see my point? So, the tough love reality is that it’s not sufficient to share an article on Facebook or say a 10 second prayer. And, full disclosure folks – I am guilty too. I am smart enough to know that I don’t have the answers. But, what I do know is that we need to stop pretending that THIS is okay.
This blog is a journey. It is me looking at the world and saying, ‘what the hell am I supposed to do?’. One of my favorite authors, Eugene Cho, has a great book called, Overrated: Are We More in Love with the Idea of Changing the World Than Actually Changing the World? I think that most of us fall into the category of those who love the idea, but please don’t ask us to make painful sacrifices of time or money. Eugene says, “To “do justice” means to render to each what each is due. Justice involves harmony, flourishing, and fairness, and it is based on the image of God in every person—the Imago Dei—that grants all people inalienable dignity and infinite worth.” He goes on to say, “Our calling is not simply to change the world, but perhaps as important, our calling is to be changed ourselves.” Gulp.
I wear a necklace that says, act justly, love mercy, walk humbly. It reminds me of the way I’m meant to live. Thematically, I’m not yet sure what this blog is about. But, practically, I can tell you its purpose in my life: accountability. It’s about loving the world enough that I am willing to change.
In my bio, I described myself as part of the Christian Left. For too long, the way I read and understand the Bible has seemed to be so completely different from the mainstream evangelical practices and messages. Thankfully, in recent years, we’ve seen a rise in the number of bloggers/authors and leaders who are advocating for a kind of Christianity that is compassionate and progressive…people like Jen Hatmaker, Sarah Bessey, Rachel Held Evans, David Platt and Eugene Cho, among others. Another great leader, Bill Hybels, has a book called Holy Discontent. My family found Bill’s church, Willow Creek, when I was a teenager. I remember it as a place that put faith into practical action, whether with food pantries for the poor or a cars ministry for single moms (Oprah’s not the only one giving away cars) or more recently, generous advocacy for and donations to the organizations helping Syrian refugees(5). Bill writes, “What is the one aspect of this broken world that, when you see it, touch it, get near it, you just can’t stand? Very likely, that firestorm of frustration reflects your holy discontent, a reality so troubling that you are thrust off the couch and into the game. It’s during these defining times when your eyes open to the needs surrounding you and your heart hungers to respond that you hear God say, “I feel the same way about this problem. Now, let’s go solve it together!””
Feck it. There is a reality so troubling, that Christian or not, we must change. In my case, it is my faith that motivates. And, my frustration stems from this sense that too much of the church has become a clanging cymbal. We, the ones who should be on the front lines of justice, compassion, mercy and love – are silent, absent and sometimes indifferent or even judgmental. Deborah Fikes, who previously served as a board member of the National Association of Evangelicals and the Executive Advisor to the World Evangelical Alliance, posted a damning article today in the New York Times(6). I highly, highly recommend that anyone who cares about the credibility of the church in America during this tumultuous political season read her article. She writes: “I also saw how easy it is for American evangelicals to be a politicized subculture, a tendency I see as detrimental to authentically living out our faith, as Christ modeled for us to do.” Deborah then goes on to list 11 different areas (including the refugee crisis) where Christians have opted to let ideology trump (no pun intended) faith.
The world is watching. Young people, are watching. I’m not a theology expert. I’m not a policy expert. But, I’ll tell you what I do know: Jesus loves that little boy in Aleppo. And, God help me if I’m going to stay silent. So, I’m going public with my journey to figure out my place in this world. I’ve got no illusions of my ability to make a major dent. But, I know that I have to fill in the blank. What comes after “and”? I will give this boy my thoughts, my prayers and__________________????