The Ban

January 31st, 2017
I told a friend recently that my biggest fear these days is becoming a Pharisee. Pharisees were the people who opposed Jesus and eventually had him crucified. They were the religious leaders and teachers who could not stand this so-called Messiah and his teachings because of how he threatened the institution. Jesus was constantly disturbing the religious establishment. Thus, Jesus was dismantling the very system that they had worked so hard to build and maintain.
I confessed to my friend that the reason why I am so afraid is because now that I have done this job for a couple years, I am beginning to understand how powerful that temptation is. To be fair, some of it comes from some unholy places within me, i.e. struggling to love God over my ego. However, I have also found that my Pharisaic tendencies also come from good intentions.  
For example, sometimes I have resisted speaking out, because I have come to know and love the people with whom I disagree. I have sat in their living rooms. I have cried at their funerals. Speaking my mind on a given issue could result in their feeling like an outsider in their own church. It could communicate, “You are wrong and even sinful for thinking the way you do.” In essence, it could cast them as my enemy.  If you have ever spoken a hard word, you know it is especially difficult to do with the people you love.
Now, it should be no surprise to any of you that recent events have only intensified this fear. With so many decisions being made and things being said not only by our country’s leaders but by friends, family and colleagues on social media, it is becoming increasingly difficult to figure out where to stand, how to stand, and most importantly where my King stands on all of this. 
After this most recent controversial move made by the new president to sign an executive order to ban all refugees from several Middle Eastern countries, I find myself led to pray prayers like this one: “Jesus, you are both Lord and former refugee…show me what to think about all of this. Show me where you are in all of this. And please, O God, help me not be so impulsive that I make judgments without wisdom…AND AT THE SAME TIME, help me not be so attached to my comfort that I am unwilling to speak or stand with you.”
In addition to prayer, I have also been reaching out to friends who sit on both sides. This is an especially important exercise for all of us, because oftentimes our Facebook feed can be such an echo chamber that it is hard to remember that there are actually good-willed people out there who see things differently, people who have simply had a different experience.
And in all of the prayer and conversation, I have realized a couple things: 
First, to my friends who support the ban, I think I understand where many of you are coming from; I want safety, too. I really do. Having two kids has forever changed me. It has made me so protective that if another kid so much as looks at them funny on the playground, I am ready to bow up. (Kidding, but serious.) The vast majority of you are not hateful. And most of you are not xenophobic…at least not any more xenophobic than many of us are unknowingly.
With that said, to my friends who oppose the ban, your convictions are spot on and we must welcome all who are trying to flee violence and persecution. Especially for Christians, there is simply no way around it: we are called to welcome the stranger, because when we welcome the stranger we are welcoming the very Person of Jesus. And to not do so will result in our judgment (see Matthew 25).
Moreover, the Bible has a long, rich tradition of commanding us to love, welcome and serve foreigners in your land because the people of God were foreigners once. God reminds us that we, too, have felt displaced and alone. Scripture tells us that we must empathize, because although we might not have been in their shoes, their rafts, or their airport terminals, we all, at one point or another, have felt lost in search for Home.
Friends, here is what I know to be true. Our country needs (and from what I understand, already has) measures in place to protect innocent people from those who only wish to do harm. I want that just as much as the next person. And yet, at the same time, the reality that we must come to accept is what every honest national leader will tell you: you can only make a country so safe. You can never fully rule out the chance for harm. If you have kids, you know this to be true. I can put locks on all of our cabinets and still find my daughter waving around a steak knife she miraculously pulled off the counter top. (True story. Don’t judge.)
So hear me: I am in total support for ensuring our country is safe. No argument there. However, at this moment in time, I believe it is imperative for us to heed caution that there is such a thing as making America “too safe.” In fact, there is a word for when we place numerous restrictions upon a people group who could be perceived as a threat. It is called oppression. And ironically, this is the same thing the Pharisees were guilty of. (No one ever sets out to become a Pharisee; rather, it is something that slowly infiltrates your heart using the vehicle of fear.) So please, let us not become people so afraid of any and every outside person that we are willing to do anything and everything to keep them away…or simply get rid of them. 

There has to be a way where we can be hospitable without sacrificing safety.  And at the same time be safe without sacrificing the call to radical, Christian hospitality.

This article originally appeared on the author's blog. Reprinted with permission.
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