It’s been a bizarre week. I haven’t seen my Facebook news feed blow up this much since Jake gave Vienna the final rose in the 2010 season of “The Bachelor.”
Can I ask that we all take a breath? Good. Now that our heads are clear, let’s calmly sift through the hysteria causing much of our angst. This time, it’s the media frenzy around President Trump’s executive order which enforces a 2015 law affecting immigration. His actions have upset many because, like many political stories, it’s confusing. Many people believe Trump locked the country’s borders to immigrants forever and placed a permanent ban on all Muslims. Many claim it’s discriminatory and unconstitutional. Others have aired their grievances on social media. A handful showed up at airports in protest.
What are we to believe? More importantly, how are Christians to behave?
Although Uncomfortable Grace is a ministry site, part of my calling is identifying behaviors in culture that cannot go unchecked. I do not take this calling lightly. Friends, we are in a difficult position as a nation and as the Body of Christ. Over the past week, I’ve observed arguments claiming American politics does not trump (pun intended) the love of Christ. Since Jesus calls us to love outcasts, many argue America should open its borders to all. This is naïve thinking. On the other hand, it’s not right for political platforms to become our savior either. The tension that exists between our faith and our American citizenship will only continue to increase. Many are weary, while others are fired up. In light of these difficult times, I’ve sought God for wisdom and am following His leading. Here’s what He’s been showing me.
- Do you have hope or Hope? Unless we first anchor our Hope in the promises of Christ, nothing else will matter. Throughout our more than two hundred years as a nation, we’ve seen leaders come and go, policies shift, and culture morph from one decade to the next. What has not changed are God’s promises to those who put their trust in Him. If your stability, happiness, mood, and hope is tied to who sits in the White House, you will be disappointed your entire life.
- Own your political leanings. I tend to vote for Republican and conservative candidates and identify with policies that reflect those values. However, I have voted for Democrats and Independents. I do not blindly support conservative candidates simply because they run on a particular ticket, nor will I trash a Democrat candidate simply because of their leanings. I pray for discernment, ask critical questions, dig through research, then make the most educated decision I can. Are your decisions solely motivated along party lines, or are you open to what Christ wants to show you about your political preferences?
- Do your research. Did you know President Trump’s recent executive order enforces a Visa policy President Barack Obama signed as part of the Omnibus Appropriations Act in 2015? Probably not, since the mainstream media refuses to report anything that paints the former president in a bad light, and the current president in a positive light. If you want the facts, you have to dig for them yourself, not simply trust media headlines.
- Sift through the noise. I read and listen to a lot of news sources for my job. However, too much consumption leaves me grumpy and agitated. These days, I’m taking a break from news that doesn’t directly relate to my job or ministry. I also know that listening to news organizations like NPR, CNN, and reading the New York Times only present liberal angles. Too much of that (as well as listening to a steady stream of conservative commentators) drains me. Just as we can give ourselves permission to take a break from the 24/7 news cycle periodically, we must also balance that with the temptation to ignore how policies affect our day-to-day lives.
- Turn down the noise. Starting now, I’ve instituted a no social media zone from sunrise to sunset. The only time during those hours I log on is when there is something pertinent to my ministry. My time is too valuable to get sucked into the fray of foolish bantering. Avoiding these squabbles keeps me from saying something I’ll regret.
- Christian ministry leaders get it wrong from time to time. It’s disheartening to follow the movers and shakers in Christian ministry, those with followings of hundreds of thousands of people, only to see them get it wrong. They are human and not above parroting mainstream media headlines and buying lies hook, line, and sinker. Many try to pass off Jesus as a no-boundaries savior who welcomed everyone without question. With all due respect, these leaders are wrong and misinformed. Jesus’ called us to a holy life, which demands great sacrifice, wisdom, and discernment. He also never let sinful behavior go unchecked, which seems to be the Christian trend as of late. As my pastor says, Jesus accepts us in our mess, but loves us too much to leave us there.
- Either/or fallacies cannot rule our thinking. It’s possible to simultaneously love Christ, reach out to others in need, and respect the laws of this land. Remember, this particular immigration law was put in place by President Obama in 2015, and it was tied to a six month period. Trump’s executive order, which enforces existing law that the previous president failed to carry out, is for 120 days. Hypocrisy is alive and well in the media, so don’t expect them to broadcast the entire picture. It’s possible to help refugees legally residing in our country and want our homeland safe through commonsense border checks. Sifting through the information takes more work on our part, but in the end, will also make us more effective witnesses.
If you have a fence around your backyard, locks on your front door, and a peephole to allow you to peer through your front door when a stranger knocks, no sane person would call you uncompassionate for failing to let others on your property and in your home. Just as you would protect your family with these commonsense tactics, the government is trying to do the same. It’s their job to enforce laws and keep us safe, not implement the teachings of Jesus.
In addition, something few seem to consider is actually putting their social media rants into action. Would you be okay with unvetted immigrants moving in next door? Would you take them into your home if that would allow them to stay in the U.S.? Would you be comfortable letting an adult male from war-torn Syria babysit your children? If you are a proponent of sanctuary cities, are you willing to personally shell out funds to keep their status if federal funds are revoked? ISIS sympathizers, including the San Bernardino and Orlando shooters, lived in someone’s neighborhood. Are you comfortable if similar individuals put down stakes in your community?
Critical questions like these may cause some to scream “racist,” “Islamophobic,” or question your walk with Christ. If someone plays this blame game with you, it’s acceptable and in keeping with Christ to simply walk away, disengage, or tell them “I’ll speak to you when you’re ready to hear my heart and my rationale. God Bless.” Conversely, we must be willing to let God work on our hearts as well if we’ve taken a misstep that needs correcting. Romans 12:18 states, “Do all that you can to live at peace with everyone.” We can still be friends and members of Christ’s family even if we disagree with each other on political issues.
Jesus called us to love our enemies, pray for those who persecute us, and turn the other cheek. He never advocated for willingly putting ourselves in harm’s way simply to prove the depth of our commitment. Honoring and obeying God also includes respecting our leaders – whether or not you voted for them. Romans 13:1-2 is clear: “Everyone must submit to governing authorities. For all authority comes from God, and those in positions of authority have been placed there by God. So anyone who rebels against authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and they will be punished.” I did not vote for Barack Obama, but he was still my president. The will of the people and God’s will placed him in the White House, so I prayed for him regularly. The Electoral College and God also placed Donald Trump in office. He gets my prayers, too. Does he get yours?
Let’s refuse to give Satan a foothold in the Body of Christ; instead, let’s come together with the fact that God’s will is that no one perish – whether it be an American citizen, a friend with different political leanings, a religious refugee, or a terrorist bent on watching the world burn.