The path of love.
Cradle Roll was the entry point for most newborns into Baptist church life back in the forties and fifties. About age three these toddlers were promoted to the Beginners class. Here they learned Scripture and Bible truth, often through the medium of song. If you grew up in Sunday School you know this one. Sing it right now----
Jesus loves the little children.
All the children of the world.
Red and yellow, black and white,
They are precious in his sight.
Jesus loves the little children of the world.
There are variations and this is the version I learned in the Beginners at West Greenville Baptist Church, Greenville, South Carolina. This sweet song comprises what is perhaps the first and most enduring Bible truth impressed on my by Adger and Wilma Williams, our beloved Beginner teachers. For me it is the starting point in negotiating the passages of the American immigration crisis. God loves everyone because he created the human species in his image. This one precedent should govern our behavior, treatment, and appreciation for every other human.
Several subsidiary realities shift impediments into this passage, what I'm calling the Love Passage. One is that this truth was taught to Beginners. Yes, I know most children don't start in Beginners any longer or receive biblical instruction for that matter. Still, God's love for human kind isn't the final word on any of our human dilemmas but is the word "Go" in all of our relational commitments. It is the foundational truth of every other path to understanding the mess we're in regarding refugees, immigrants Dreamers, aliens, strangers, illegals, sojourners, foreigners, or anyone different than us. But, it isn't the last word. I mean, we're supposed to love our neighbors as ourselves. Just the same, I'm challenged to speak the truth to him or her as well. Loving him is a start. But, there's always more.
A second contingency that must help frame my treatment of others is the total depravity of man. By this I'm referencing my sinful nature and all other humans as well, including the one's I'm supposed to love. This may be one reason we humans struggle to comprehend unconditional love. My biases, prejudices, preferences, likes and dislikes are no excuse for mistreatment of others or an alibi for a hateful attitude. I just need to be aware of my human tendencies, remain watchful about them, and rely on God's provision to overcome them when applying his love for all.
Another dead end passage is the expectation that the immigrant is going to love me back, in the same way. Yes, we're all "...fearfully and wonderfully made..." (see Psalm 139:14, ESV). Yet, children, we're not all alike. We're all programmed by customs, traditions, worldviews, and expectations unique to our origin. This means I'm going to love them while not expecting anything in return. They may not know or comprehend my Americanized concepts of loving. It's a lesson I need to remember quite often.
God's instruction to Israel included very strong commandments about their love, respect, and right treatment of the sojourners in their midst.
Love the sojourner, therefore, for you were sojourners in the land of Egypt.
Deuteronomy 10:19, ESV
It was a sentiment expressed in many other terms in the books of Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy. But, it should be noted: it wasn't the only thing God said to Israel about their relationship with diverse people living among them. No, their love for the strangers was a strong underpinning of a role to provide for their safety and welfare. But, there was more. Much more.
And, that's frustration for me right now. The responses of the Christian community to the current headlines about the immigration and refugee crisis are the truths taught to me as a beginner. God loves everyone---red and yellow, black and white---yes, affirmative, accepted and proclaimed without argument. But, that's not the only thing God said. if we're going to teach it, let's show our secular nation the whole counsel of God, and pray that our national leaders will be mature and wise enough to lead us through this complicated labyrinth of values.
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