"Which of these, do you think, was a neighbor?"
"The one who showed mercy."
"Go and do likewise."
In the past year, the Adult Forum took some time to put our faith in dialogue with the world refugee crisis.
Some of the things that surprised us:
The large number of people who moved countries in the Bible,
The even larger number of scripture passages reminding us to care for strangers and foreigners, including repeated reminders to remember our own ancestors' history as strangers and foreigners,
The various categories of "movers", including displaced person, refugee, migrant, immigrant, asylum seeker, and stateless person, and how these all have very distinct meanings,
How extremely long (years) and difficult (numerous and repeated security and background checks) it is to get into the United States as a refugee,
How few crimes are committed by people moving into the US, with refugees actually significantly below US citizen crime rates, and
How little help refugees receive from the government, most of which they are expected to pay back within a very short window (a year or less of arrival), and how the Church is one of the few groups that offers a true helping hand.
So much more could be said, but two things became clear as we delved into this topic:
We have a biblical mandate to have mercy on those who are seeking mercy, especially including foreigners who hope to become our neighbors.
There are numerous issues and concerns (some legitimate, some that require legal fixes, some based on fear, and some based on misinformation) that keep us from welcoming those in need.
Today, I simply want to invite you:
to recall what is was like for your ancestors to come to a foreign land (including why they left their homes),
to consider what fear or misinformation might be skewing your picture of those seeking to come to the United States, and
to pray one simple prayer: Lord, what would it mean for me to show mercy to my foreign neighbor like you've shown mercy to me?
Finally, I want to thank you for the ways we helped displaced persons from Puerto Rico last summer and let you know that for our service project at VBS this year we're planning to help "movers" of one type or another as we learn about Daniel, who was somewhere between a refugee and a slave, living in the country that destroyed his homeland of Israel. Please watch for information on how you can show mercy, just like the Good Samaritan (a foreigner).