God is watching.

The story we just heard in our Gospel of the Good Samaritan is so familiar that to some it is on the verge of becoming little more than a cliché. Even people who have never read the Bible know the image of compassion embodied by the Samaritan who takes a risk to help a stranger in the midst of great trouble. In fact, the notion of a “Good Samaritan” now has a cultural component almost entirely separate from the term’s biblical origins. And despite many repetitions and retellings, this story is no less powerful and no less needed today; for behind its simplicity we find a lifetime of wisdom and a shocking upturning of our modern values.

Lately, I feel as if I am trying to win an unwinnable battle. Not a battle that needs won by any demonstrative way, but rather won for the sake of humanity, and for justice, and for peace within me. I realized that it began long ago with the last presidential election, and it cumulated in the radical way we are now detaining, incarcerating and vilifying immigrants and refugees, and yes, children, too. It’s…well, it’s just unbelievable to me. (Let’s leave it at that since I am blogging for my church!) I have tried to voice my objections, and even have given to help organizations on the border. I have used my voice – and the pulpit of Saint Miriam – to say, ‘no more’ and to ask others to see how they are anti-Christian and anti-God in their rhetoric that demands the rejection of others who seek our help and care. Much of this has served no real purpose and some of those most vocal have been friends and dare I say, even parishioners. Again, it’s…well, it’s just unbelievable to me. I was at loss and then entered facts, and an author I enjoy reading.

First a few facts! You see, our hands have always been dirty in this nation, as have been many nations, too. From the Indian Removal Act of 1830, to ‘Operation Wetback’ of 1954, to us detaining anyone of Japanese ancestry, to the millions of deportations in the last decade, our history as a country is marred by the intentional dislocation of innocent people. And, every time we do it we have made those people dehumanized.

Now to be clear, the Bible includes over 170 verses calling for the just treatment of migrants, often referred to as “strangers.” But just as relevant is how we are called to treat our neighbors and these strangers at our shore (or borders). The policy of mass deportation announced this week – to take place ironically on the Sabbath, this Sunday, is an attack on our neighbors. Regardless of where you are born, a person in the community is a neighbor who must be treated with dignity and love.What we have allowed is the faceless to become dehumanized. The ‘Mexican’ and the ‘migrant’ and ‘the refugee’ are not political fodder for hate. Even showing the dead bodies of a father holding onto his daughter, floating at the edge of the Rio Grande River was not enough. We simply turned away. After all, we couldn’t see their faces, but if we could I assure you they looked like us. We – all of us – have allowed this to occur and we are all to blame, and we all should be so ashamed.

Enter that Author! I stumbled upon a new article by Mike Rumley-Wells, a writer who engages in what his friends dubbed “reckless transparency.” In a recent piece within Relevant Magazine entitled, Why So Many Christians Want to Go On Mission Trips to Help Kids But Don’t Want Them Here, he writes, “I have no argument for someone who believes that we should not share our resources with children who would otherwise be raped or burned alive in their homes, because ‘Why should our tax dollars have to go to them?’ When I say, “I have no argument” I mean we have no values in common from which I can argue.” Exactly! There it was! Now I understand what I have been fighting against without success. You see, you cannot change the heart of another from stone and hatred to light and love without their first recognizing their own hate and bias. You cannot argue with someone without the same values as you.

The story of an unlikely helper still rings true today; is still needed today; perhaps today… it needed even more than ever before. Our job as faithful people is to welcome people with mercy. Our religious images are supposed to remind us where God’s heart is. God’s heart is compassion. With people who are in need, and our heart should be there, too.

The commands of Scripture are clear. The weight of history rests on our shoulders. The fate of families literally hangs in the balance. And God is watching.

 


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