In my comfy living room, I have a big screen TV. (Because I’m an American, and that’s what we do.) Above it, I have photos from some of my travels. I put them up because they mean more to me than some random pretty thing from a store. There’s one in particular I want to share with you. It’s from one of my early trips to Central America in the early 90’s. I honestly don’t remember which trip it is from, so it could have been from anywhere from Mexico through Honduras. I took these trips with Compassion International. I was working as a volunteer with them at the time. I went to see their work with children who were living in poverty in order to help me be a better advocate for children in need.
This particular picture is a photo of two beautiful, smiling children. They’re wearing tattered clothes and standing behind barbed wire, holding some balloon sculptures I had made for them. It’s an odd choice for living room decor, but it’s a deliberate one. It is a reminder of some things I must never allow myself to forget.
It reminds me that my comfortable, safe living room is not normal. Only a tiny percentage of the world’s population has anything close to my living standard. I must never take my situation for granted, or forget to speak up for those who can’t speak for themselves. (Proverbs 31:8)
It reminds me that the poor have faces. They aren’t simply numbers or statistics. They are people of dignity and worth. They are created in the image of God and are dearly loved by him. Jesus so identifies with the poor, persecuted, and hurting that he takes their suffering as his own. If I forget or neglect them, I am neglecting Jesus himself. (Matthew 25:31 ff.)
It reminds me of the worth of all people, regardless of their ethnicity, economic or social status, or whatever else might tempt me to view them as “other.” (Galatians 3:28)
I should make it clear that this photo doesn’t make me feel guilty. It doesn’t make me feel pity toward them. It makes me feel compassion. It makes me feel responsibility. It makes me feel honored to have the opportunity to speak for those like them or serve them in some small way.
To my shame, until I did some research when the issue became a political talking point in the election, I was nearly clueless about the refugee crisis. I was completely unaware of the scope of the problem or the extent of the persecution and suffering that was going on. I hope you understand that, being who I am, now that I’ve seen it I can’t simply look away. I wrote about the some at the time. Now that my country has decided we must shut our doors to all refugees, I cannot remain silent.
Please don’t see this as a political issue. It isn’t. It’s a human issue. A spiritual issue. I am not advocating for any particular political solution. I am advocating for the people in need. Of course, I have political opinions, but in general I’ve only shared them when directly asked. What I want is for us, the church, to know the truth about the situation. I want us to see their faces, and not be able to hide behind comfortable lies and memes. I want us to see those in need as people of dignity and worth. I want us to feel for them, to cry for them. If it is true that there is really nothing we can do except watch our neighbors suffer and die outside our door, then I want our hearts to break. (And make no mistake, Jesus makes it clear in Luke 10 that these are our neighbors.) Because if we can remain nothing more than callous observers of this level of human suffering and despair, then what kind of monsters are we?
If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person? —1 John 3:17