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Tuesday, October 30, 2018

“The Lord Watches over Strangers” (Psalm 146)

Image result for the caravan

            The caravan!  The president of the most powerful nation on earth, the United States of America, mobilizes 5,200 soldiers to … our border.  Why station combat-ready troops at the border?  Who’s threatening to invade?  Poor Honduran and Mexican migrant farmers and migrant workers fleeing political oppression and debilitating unemployment.  Many in our country, the U.S.A., see these who want to come have some of the freedom we hold and have not earned but enjoy by virtue of birth, secured by our European ancestors’ invasion and conquest, and they call these immigrants “illegals,” or “foreigners,” or “strangers.” 
Many of the Americans who affix such negative labels to those in the ‘caravan’ would call themselves ‘Christians,’ evangelical Christians.  From the Greek root, ‘evangelical’ means one who spreads good news.  ‘Christian’ literally means ‘little Christ.’  Evangelical Christians among all the branches of Christian faith most ardently claim to live Biblically.  So these Americans wanting to abide by the dictates of scripture and to spread good news to the ‘least of these’ (Matthew 25:40) and to walk in the footsteps of Christ support the move to block the poor, the hungry, the homeless at the border of the land of the free and the home of the brave? 
Confronting weary, desperate refugees families with a show of military force doesn’t seem very brave or Christi.  What have we become?
The Bible’s got something for those refugees and migrants, and the Bible’s got something for powerful political leaders who refuse to welcome or help them.  Psalm 146:9, “The Lord watches over strangers; he upholds the orphan and the widow, but the way of the wicked he will bring to ruin.”  Bible-reading, Bible-obeying, good news-telling, little Christ evangelicals, read this Psalm carefully, slowly, over and over (and Matthew 25:31-46 while you’re at it).
See the God this Psalm describes.  He is the one to trust, not princes (meaning earthly political leaders, whether monarchs, oligarchs, prime ministers, or presidents – 146:3).  We trust God.  “Happy are those whose help is God” (v.5).  He is creator of the universe (v.6).  A lot of evangelicals agree with this as they reject evolutionary biology and in the process willfully ignore the established conventions of science.  Evangelicals ignore science, blissfully declare belief in a creator, and then miss that the very same verse that asserts creation, Psalm 146:7, depicts God as giver of justice for the oppressed. 
Those in the ‘caravan’ were severely persecuted in their home countries.  They have had to use everything they have to travel harsh roads to finally arrive at the country that in the past has said “send me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door” (see the statue of liberty)!”  After their harrowing flight and exhausting journey, these people, the oppressed of Psalm 146, the ones God watches over, are met at Liberty’s door by Liberty’s army pointing Guns and tanks at them. 
What has happened to America?  What have we become?  And how in the name of the Holy God can any evangelical anywhere support such inhospitable policies?  Psalm 146:8-9.  “The Lord sets the prisoners free; the Lord opens the eyes of the blind.  The Lord lifts up those who are bowed down; the Lord loves the righteous.  The Lord watches over strangers; he upholds the orphan and the widow.”  Read these inspired, inerrant words again and again and again until they sink in.  In the news story dominating headlines, the story of the ‘caravan,’ and our nation’s furrowed-brow-response, God is on the side of the weary immigrants seeking safety and opportunity. 
Aren’t evangelicals supposed to be on the side God is on?
It sounds as if I have been beating up on evangelicals.  Nope.  I have been doing what evangelicals do because I am one.  I have turned to the Bible, specifically Matthew 25:31-36 and Psalm 146 (see also Isaiah 58:6; 61:1-2 & Luke 4:18-21 where Jesus said that in his coming the passages from Isaiah had come to fulfillment).  Like any evangelical, I want to be a Bible-reading, Bible-obeying, good news-telling Christ follower.  That is literally what an evangelical is. 
I have not beat up on evangelicals here.  I have renounced media that falsely depicts evangelical Christianity, and I renounce those who claim to be evangelical and then try to define it by political party affiliation and issues-based self-identification.  True evangelical Christianity takes its cues from scripture, and scripture defines God as being opposed to those in power and in support of those oppressed and afflicted.  This is who the God of the Bible is.  If this is who you trust, the Psalm says you’ll be happy.  If you’re opposed to welcoming the haggard poor in the caravan, you’re opposed to the God of the Bible.  That’s a faith statement, not a political one.

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