On Faith, Life, and Refugees

A guest post by Andrea Bailey

We are not listening to each other. I hear conservatives accusing liberals and other conservatives that they have bought into liberal biased media hype. I hear liberals accusing conservatives of being hateful and intolerant, all the while not listening themselves. I hear those genuinely concerned for truth asking questions and being overwhelmed, not sure who they should trust. I hear so many proclaiming boldly which media sources can be trusted and which ones cannot, authoritatively dismissing legitimate questions and reasonable discourse. I hear fear and pride.

If only it were so simple. If only we could know with certainty which sources to trust. If only that source could outline all the answers. If only we could trust that facts and news could come to us without bias or could be completely neutral.

Speaking to those who seek to follow Christ, at this intersection of faith and life, there are no simple, axiomatic solutions. We must seek wisdom. The application of truth requires wisdom and is never simple; rather, its progress is often slow and it requires discernment, effort and humility to learn.

For those who claim the name Christian, how do you know truth? Where do you turn for truth and the wisdom to live it out? How does that truth teach you to stand in these matters? Is truth ever just rational or logical belief? Is it not also experiencing God in the details of our physical lives, authenticating and revealing more fully that which we also know and confess?

It seems possible that in these matters of loving others, we have erred too much on the side of reason. We have not experienced truth in that way which helps us to fully know it, through our physical, everyday experiences, entering into the physical, everyday lives of those we are called to serve.

Where do we think we can experience the grace and mercy of God more than in entering into the struggles of those whom He has taught us to love? But have we entered in?

Christ spent his time with the poor, the marginalized, the broken, the suffering, the sick—these are the ones he most often gave the gift of His physical presence. Loving others carries a cost but did Christ not show us how to love when He came to show His love for us?

God’s love for the poor, the widow, the orphan, the sojourner is undeniable throughout Scripture and His commands for us to care for them cannot be dismissed. And so it is needful to consider how we were taught to love.

Are we only supposed to love and welcome others when it is safe for us, or doesn’t cost us too much, even though the ones seeking our help are suffering or dying? When God calls us to love the sojourner, did He say only if they believe in Me and it will not threaten your safety?

I recognize that this type of thinking has the potential to conflict with national security, but does it have to? Can we rally for stronger security measures while still advocating for our government to give us the ability to welcome those who are suffering, in accordance with the teachings of our faith? Does our faith allow us to ignore the sufferings of others in the name of national security?

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Of those who are no longer allowed to come safely to our shores, is it possible that they might also have learned and believed the Good News—that God loves them and welcomes them to believe and be healed? Is it possible that they would have believed, especially in a land where they are shown welcome and are given the freedom to believe? But for now they cannot come. For now they cannot hear. For now, is it not more likely that they will think of America, that Christian nation (as it is believed to be), as a nation who worships a God that does not care that they are suffering?

To love is to sacrifice.

As Christians, can you claim to value and cherish life and then stay silent while it is denied to those who are in danger of losing theirs? Have you supported and sacrificed when those seeking to care for the ones who have already lost so much in this life, need help?

Let’s bring it closer to home—when you see a young single woman, trying to care for her child on her own, have you helped? Or have you referred her to government programs and then supported policies that make her life more difficult?

When you see adoptive or foster families struggling, sacrificially loving children who have lost or have suffered, have you entered in? Have you given of your own time? Has it cost you anything to help care for those lives which you said you were for? Has it changed the way you live?

If we have not entered into the lives of those whom Christ taught us to love, sacrificially giving of ourselves, is it possible that our unaffected lives mock their suffering? It is possible that our unaffected lives are the very thing which cause them to doubt God’s love for them?

And so today, to all who claim the name Christian, I invite you to enter into the lives of those who are suffering. Only in entering in can we more fully experience that which we know. Only in entering in can we more faithfully demonstrate the love of God for those who are suffering. Only in entering in can we see the power of love in the face of fear because only in entering in can we know more fully that perfect Love which drives out all fear.

 

Andrea Bailey directs a faith-based ESL program serving refugees and immigrants in her local community.

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On Gym Culture

“Will you get out of my way?” snapped the elderly woman, gripping her kick board tight and kicking off from the wall.  Her eyes were twinkling; it’s hard to be taken seriously when your eyes shine with mirth.  “Maybe….” I grinned back, “If I feel like it.”  My answer satisfied her.

As she cruised past another elderly woman was using some foam weights, so I asked her if she’d show me how to use them.  She seemed genuinely surprised that a semi-young-whipper-snapper was asking her for help.  I got weights off of a shelf brimming with water aerobics gear and earned a laugh from them as I’d inadvertently chosen very large ones.  I tried to do the move she showed me of pushing them downwards and found myself lifting off my feet.  I had to move to deeper water to actually keep myself in the water.  These ladies were a combination of kind and cranky and very comfortable in their bodies.  They’re the sort that whips their suit clean off and towels-off fully nude in the middle of the locker room, while gals my age are huddling and covering and ashamed that we are not, after all, some kind of perfect.  I want to be like them.

It was different at my first gym.  I don’t know why some places have such a vibe, but it sort of oozed sexuality; there was strutting, long looks, bootie-shaking Zumba, and a lot of the women came to work out looking better than I’d ever look to go out.  I mean, hair washed, blown-dry, straightened, and then assembled into the most deliberate “messy bun”, and make-up so perfectly applied that they looked prom-ready from the neck up, and triathlon-ready from there down.  After their exercise the whole routine had to be repeated so that they could go out as perfectly as they entered.  Meanwhile I puffed and sweated away on the rowing machine, red-faced and with an honestly messy hairstyle.  I’m not mocking those women (nor the men who very much appreciated their efforts); I don’t feel like I’m better than them nor that I’m a shlub for not taking the same pains.  I’d just say that the things which were important to them in their gym culture were foreign to me and extraneous to what I was after.

There is something about a long-established gym full of old folks.  Our first time going my husband had emerged from his changing room before I had, and I found him enmeshed in a gossiping group of old ladies, crowded around a small table.  I smiled.

Now, there is a Zumba class, and at different hours of the day the crowd may be more young, restless, and on the hunt, but there has been, at all hours, enough of the oldsters around to balance things out.  It has the feel of an old country club with a few youngsters thrown in; a landmark of the community much like a diner in a small town; everyone knows, or at least recognizes the regulars and has something to say about them.  And of course they have a lot to say about the newcomers.

“Where did you come from?!” barked the elderly woman, her swimming cap adding height and severity to her expression.  I pointed to the lap lane next to us from whence I had just swam.  “You just APPEARED!” she cried.  “Someone has to keep you on your toes”, I said, winking.

I think I’ll fit in just fine.

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