Loving the Refugee Among Us

I am struck this morning by Jesus’ command to love our neighbors as ourselves and the words of his followers about loving one another, especially fellow believers. I can personally attest to the way in which my life was changed by the love of people in the Christian community. I also know that there were those who would rather I not be around and who did not think I belonged in their group. They were the ones who looked down on me because of my circumstances and thought I was of less value than they because of my situation. It breaks my heart when I see that today.

Refugee. Displaced. Escapee. Fleeing from danger. Running in fear. Lost. Alone. Desperate.

Those words came to me this morning as I read Jesus’ and the disciple’s words about love. As I read about loving those in the body, I wondered about those refugees coming to strange lands with no hope. I wondered about the fear I am reading that many here in America have about what this change means for them. I wondered how it is we as Christians can believe in Jesus and have read the stories of his outreach to strangers, and yet we are not rushing to embrace these people.

The man I follow crossed the road for the despicable, for the untouchable, and for the criminal. His only agenda was to touch them, love them, and give them an opportunity to know that they are worthy of God’s love. They were all valuable in his eyes, even the loathsome sinner. This Jesus went into areas of the world where no Jew was to go to show us that there are no boundaries or borders to God’s love for man. And by his actions they came to know God the father and Jesus the savior and their lives were transformed.

Why then as Christians are we not overjoyed at the arrival a people in need of God’s love? Why are we not rushing to them with arms full of clothes and food and jobs? Why are we not sharing God’s love with them rather than pushing them away as the untouchable? Why are we letting the fear that Jesus told us to let go of run us? Why are we not taking this time to give them an opportunity to become part of the body of Christ?

Where is the love?

I am not a political person. I don’t write a political blog. I am just a believer and follower of Jesus Christ who tries to live out his message in all that I do. Maybe this is radical thinking for some of my readers and I hope it gives you pause to pray about the neighbors who share your streets and will compel you to cross the road to say “hello” and build a new relationship with them. Maybe this will encourage you to adopt a refugee or immigrant in your midst and share the love of Jesus with them. Maybe we who follow a God of love and second chances will be gracious enough to offer the same to a stranger. I pray that today God will present you with the opportunity to do that and I pray that we as the body of Christ will find a way to love the hurt and broken he is sending to us. HE IS SENDING TO US! The broken have come to our shores and there couldn’t be any easier way than that for us to share Christ’s love than in this moment.

God bless,

Maggie

He makes the whole body to fit together perfectly. As each part does its own special work, it helps the other parts grow, so that the whole body is healthy and growing and full of love. Ephesians 4

Image by The Refugee Art Project

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Woman at the Well

One of my favorite Bible stories is that of the Samarian woman who encounters Jesus at Jacob’s well. It is one of a handful of stories that I relate to my transformation story. When I read this story, it gave me hope that I too could turn my life around, find forgiveness, and leave old patterns of living behind me. My hope began when I read how Jesus spoke to a woman that belonged to a group of people that Jews would not normally speak with. In fact, most people avoided Samaria because they thought themselves better than the people living there. Yet, Jesus deliberately went to Samaria and sought out a woman with whom to share his love and forgiveness. Jesus had a way of stepping into the dirty waters to bring the lost into fresh clear waters. Jesus called out her sin and offered her new living water to fill the empty spot in her life that caused her to keep seeking out something that was ultimately detrimental to her. Not only was this woman’s life changed but she carried back the story of her transformation so that others would find new life as well.

From a personal perspective I related to this woman because of my own lifestyle. Having been through multiple relationships and marriages as I tried to find that ‘real love,’ I came to understand that with the love of Jesus and the Father, I could finally stop looking. I could let go of a past that was influencing my future and damaging my heart and soul.  Above all things in sharing my transformation story, I want other women (and men) to realize that they will never find the perfect love and joy they want by jumping from one bed to another. That momentary high is just that—fleeting and momentary. I needed a love that was lasting and life changing. Once I was able to accept God’s love and to see myself as he does, I was able to accept that my life has value and to begin to live and look for the best in my life.

I sat with my transformation story for a long time. I was still embarrassed by my failures and lifestyle choices. I worried about what others would think if they knew how I lived and how long I lived like I did. I simply wanted to get on with my life and hide the past. I think we would all like to forget the pasts we have left behind and simply keep moving forward. I think God wants us to realize a new birth in his forgiveness; however, like the woman at the well he wants us to share the joy of our new freedom. He wants us to share his story of new water poured into our lives. He wants us to go out and spread the word, telling who we were and who we are today.

Life-giving transformation is a gift and it is God’s story, not my story. I can share the joy I have in not living as I once did and I can share the source of the new life without shame. Our testimonies are the revelation that God is still working with us, Jesus is still walking with us, and the Holy Spirit is still guiding our steps—if we are willing to step into clearer waters. Elmer Towns writes that when Jesus offered the woman at the well “living water” we should see this water as: “1) producing growth, 2) cleansing, 3) refreshing, but Jesus was using this expression to show her how to find 4) satisfactions in life.” [i] As I celebrate what God has done in my life, I want to be like the woman at the well and rush out and tell others the Good News—that you too can let go of past behaviors and embrace a new way of living. You too can have a story of transformation to share and live a more satisfying life.

Do you have a message of transformation too? Have you seen your life in the stories about Jesus’ walk on earth? Have you been changed in such a dramatic way that you just have to run and tell someone? Are you willing to step into muddy waters and share your transformation story so that someone else might embrace the change Jesus is offering for their lives? Are you willing to deliberately go and talk to someone from a group that you would normally avoid and share God’s forgiving grace with them? Start making a list of people and places where you could share your story and them plan how to open the door to new life for them. I know of no greater gift that we can give to another than to share our Jesus story.

 

[i] Towns, E., (2002). The Gospel of Joh: Believe and Live, AMG Publishers: Chattanooga, TN