One of the most remarkable aspects of the ministry of Jesus is that he made it clear that God’s grace and forgiveness is for all humans no matter their racial or cultural status. Jesus preached to the poor, to foreigners, and to the marginalized. All of the recent rhetoric about “foreigners” has gotten me thinking a great deal. As Christians, we are called to love those who are different . . . but we are sinful, making the loving of others very difficult at times.
A few years ago, I had an experience that taught me how deeply rooted is our fear of others. Until this, I never thought that I was fearful of others. I learned how quickly the knee-jerk reaction of the fear of “the others” could kick in. I had walked into an airport bathroom. There was a group of four young men of African descent just standing by the sinks. They all looked at me when I walked in, and then they huddled up and started whispering among themselves. One of them looked up at me, as if waiting for something, and then turned back to the group. In their every action I read hostility. I am ashamed that every ugly stereotype reared its ugly head. Simply put, I was afraid. Pretending that I had only come in to wash my hands, I headed straight to the sink closest to the door to quickly wash my hands and get out. The sinks were motion controlled. As soon as I waved my hands under the faucet and the water came out, a curious thing happened. They gave out a shout of delight! They all rushed to the faucets and waved their hands to make the water come out. They were laughing and talking in a language that I didn’t understand, and it was clear that they had no malicious thoughts at all – it was just that they could not figure out how a motion controlled sink worked. One of them even turned to me and gave me a smile of thanks. I was so ashamed. I felt sick with disgust. They only wanted to wash their hands. I later learned that they were refugees from a war-torn African nation. How hard it must be for them, in a completely different world, and yet I greeted them with fear. I realized that I am not always the accepting person I thought that I was, and that my sin runs deep. Thankfully Jesus has shed his blood for the forgiveness of my sins, that I have been given the gift of love and forgiveness that I do not deserve and I cannot earn. It is so easy to say “yes, I love others” but I learned that day that without Christ I would quickly become a slave to fear and hatred. This is true for all of us. I pray that God guides out our nation, that we as a people never succumb to the sinful nature that Christ came to conquer, but instead embrace a love of others that reflects the grace and forgiveness that God offers to every person on Earth.
Let brotherly love continue. Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares. Hebrews 13:1-2
— James T., Council Vice President