Elmina Castle is a popular tourist stop in the African country of Ghana, with a dark history. Elmina Castle was one of the biggest trading posts for slaves in the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade centuries ago. It is estimated that over 30,000 slaves were held underneath Elmina Castle in a dungeon. And the thing about this dungeon was that there was only one air vent for all of the people underneath. As you can imagine, many died of suffocation and disease ran rampant in the compressed quarters. But this vent was directly in front of the door to the church in the castle. And so, every Sunday, church goers would literally have to step over the vent to go to church as the cries of those begging for their freedom would fill the air around them. In fact, it is said that the congregation was often asked to sing more loudly as to drown out the cries from underneath. So, Sunday after Sunday, these people could no longer choose ignorance of the problem. They had to make a willful decision not to help.–Story from IJM
Just days into 2017, and so many of us have already steeled ourselves for the months ahead, haven’t we? At the end of the high fructose corn syrup of election cycles, we’re left gutted and wary of what’s to come. Whatever your politics, the day after the election a teacher friend of mine consoled sobbing, undocumented children in his class– and could not tell them they were safe. Whatever your politics, my friend’s adopted Rwandan son came home the day after the election and asked if he and his Iraqi friend were going to be sent away from their families, and back across the ocean. Whatever your politics, my friend with a debilitating medical condition that renders her unable to work is deeply afraid of what will happen when her health insurance disappears. Whatever your politics, my friends of color seem to be overwhelmingly disheartened by the new administration.
It’s easy for us to argue about policies, but the real, lived experiences of our neighbors? God forbid we simply sing louder to drown out their voices.
Wherever you stand politically, it’s been an ugly season and so many of us find ourselves viscerally unhinged, attempting to clumsily navigate the wreckage. It feels like the world is on fire—ablaze with anger and fear and hate that seem impossible to quell. Rhetoric feels ever increasingly more us and them–which should unite us all in sober grief.
It bears repeating that no matter how we voted, our charge as the Church is the same as it has always been: to fiercely love God and to fiercely love people. For the believer, justice is not a partisan issue–it is a gospel issue. Loving people like Jesus loves them means leaning hard into holy anger about injustice, oppression and the exploitation of people, and working tirelessly for justice, freedom and peace. The sick, the elderly, the undocumented immigrant, the unborn, the marginalized, the oppressed, the poor, the orphaned, the refugee—they are all emphatically ours. Their sorrows are ours to bear, ours to act upon as we demonstrate and proclaim the gospel. Wherever the new administration dismisses or harms them, we have a mandate to step in and care for them—the task has always belonged to us. We care because He cares, and our whole lives should reflect it.
And, dare I say it? Followers of Christ should be the first to question borders or walls. Our very identity is that we are citizens of heaven. If anything sets us apart, it should be the extravagant love we display to anyone with a need, and not a flag. The gospel demands that we reexamine who our neighbors and family are—it tells us that they are both across the street and across the world in Aleppo. We are citizens of heaven far before we are citizens of America—and it is that citizenship and our charge to love God and love the world like He does that dictates everything that we do. Where people of any color or creed need to be cared for, we should always, always see the church loving them with the wild and fierce love that first loved us. We are to incarnate a risen Christ in our homes and our cities and in Yemen and Nepal and Somalia. Friends, if we really believe that Jesus is alive and coming back one day to redeem and restore every broken thing, we will be unstoppably moved to work for that world here and now.
That the gospel is good news should come as no surprise to anyone that knows a follower of Christ. Church, we believe that there is hope as long as Jesus is still out of the grave. We believe by faith that He intends to answer the cries of hurting people through His Church—us. Let’s refuse to simply turn away and sing louder, and instead make the uncomfortable choice to listen. Let’s boldly call out injustice and oppression wherever we find it, and stand shoulder to shoulder with our brothers and sisters and work with them to right it until the job is done. Let’s pour ourselves out for people because Jesus poured out His life for us.
We have work to do, Church. As we step into an uncertain future, may our prayers, our dollars, our time, the phone calls we make to our representatives and the people we gather around our kitchen tables speak a louder love story than our Twitter feeds. Your Kingdom come and Your will be done in and through us, Jesus. Let it be so.