Jesus is a Globalist

FOURTH SUNDAY OF EASTER

Acts 4:5-12

Psalm 23

1 John 3:16-24

John 10:11-18

Prayer of the Day: O Lord Christ, good shepherd of the sheep, you seek the lost and guide us into your fold. Feed us, and we shall be satisfied; heal us, and we shall be whole. Make us one with you, for you live and reign with the Father and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.

“We know love by this, that he laid down his life for us—and we ought to lay down our lives for one another. How does God’s love abide in anyone who has the world’s goods and sees a brother or sister in need and yet refuses help?” I John 3:16-17.

Saint John’s question took on burning urgency this week. Last Friday morning, the White House distributed the text of a directive to be signed by President Joe Biden keeping in place the Trump-era limit on refugee settlement of 1500. This in the face of a refuge flood at our southern border consisting in large part of unaccompanied minors and after Mr. Biden promised during his presidential campaign to increase that number to 62,000 for the remainder of this year and 125,000 the next. It now appears that, following an outcry from some members of congress and numerous churches, NGOs and prominent individuals, the administration is reconsidering its directive, though what the final refugee limit will be remains unclear. We can hope and pray that advocates for refugees will continue pressing the administration to live up to its promise of a more humane approach to human migration.

While the complex legal, economic and political considerations surrounding the issues of refugee resettlement and immigration are legion, the matter is as clear as crystal for disciples of Jesus. One who has the worlds goods and withholds them from another in need has not the love of God. The generosity Jesus requires of his followers is no less than the generosity he has shown them. Such generosity does not end with occasional acts of charity or even the surrender of all one’s worldly goods. Jesus calls for the sacrifice of life itself for the wellbeing of the neighbor.[1] However compelling the cries of “national security,” “border security” and “immigration control” might be in the political arena, they cannot be permitted to stand as arguments against the church’s call to serve the “least of these,” no matter on which side of the border they might be found.

The church, I must emphasize, is not an apolitical organization. As a people called into community where the “mind of Christ” is formed, it carries out Jesus’ mission to the whole world. Because the church is “one, holy, catholic and apostolic,” its politics is inescapably “globalist.” While that term is considered close to the “F” word among a lot of nominally Christian folk, ranking as it does along with “communism,” “socialism,” “liberalism” and the like, the truth is, you can’t be a disciple of Jesus without being a globalist. Any so called Christian who goes about with terms like “America First” or “close the border” on the lips is biblically illiterate and knows nothing of Christ.

As a practical matter, human migration is an inescapably global problem. Pretending that we can solve it by regulating our borders is rather like locking your cruise ship cabin door as the ocean gushes in through gaping holes in the hull because, after all, your concern is only with your own cabin and the rest of the ship is not your problem. As long as life remains intolerable for millions of people around the world in their own nations due to corrupt, oppressive or failed governments, famines, war and extreme poverty, people living in these countries will continue attempting to find a better life for themselves and their children in other parts of the world. As long as gross inequality exists between nations such that increasing numbers of people are finding life intolerable at home, we can expect them to be on the move. As noted by Jeffrey Kaye[2] in his recent book:

“…migration will persist no matter what we do to try to restrain or restrict it, particularly as the income gap between the haves and the have-nots continues to expand. Build walls, and people will go over, around, and under them. Hire border guards, and people will bribe them. Step up patrols, and migrants will find alternate routes.” Kaye, Jeffrey, Moving Millions: How Coyote Capitalism Fuels Global Immigration (c. 2010 by Jeffery Kay; pub. by John Wiley & Sons, Inc.) p. 11.

Kay concludes that “If limiting migration is a desirable goal, for the have-nots to stop banging on the doors of the developed world, they’ll need good reasons to stay put-economies that work, opportunities to prosper. This might be “pie in the sky,” but the alternatives are even bigger prisons, more police, and higher walls-because like it or not, widening economic differences between countries give impetus to the ongoing global march. Migrants who move from lower to higher income economies are often able to earn twenty to thirty times more than they can by staying at home. So unless massive income disparities are eliminated or reduced, if migrants believe the potential rewards of leaving home outweigh the risks of migrating, people naturally will up and leave.” Ibid. p. 256.

Though Kaye may characterize it as “pie in the sky,” there is precedent for the United States taking initiative for massive global reconstruction. It was called the Marshall Plan. Recognizing that a defeated Germany in the midst of a war ravaged Europe bearing the weight of “victor’s justice” following the first world war had given birth to the second, a farsighted Democratic President (Harry Truman), with the support of a Republican Congress, understood that the best defense against the westward spread of Soviet influence and a new round of global military conflicts threatening the security of the United States was a strong and prosperous Europe. Accordingly, Congress authorized the transfer of over $12 billion, equivalent to $130 billion in today’s dollars, for economic recovery programs in Western European economies. The result: increased economic and political cooperation between the nations of Western Europe, containment of the Soviet threat and no military hostilities for most of the century thereafter. Where there is political will and determination to solve global problems, history has shown us that significant progress can be made on a global scale.

But I digress. As I said before, for disciples of Jesus there is no debate over what we owe persons fleeing criminal violence, starvation and war. Yet it seems we as Christians in the United States have done a poor job of educating our people on the ancient New Testament duty of hospitality to strangers. If 81% of white evangelical Christians, 53% of white mainline protestants and 52% of white Catholics can support a man whose principal campaign promise was to shut our national doors to refugees,[3] the gospel of Jesus Christ is not getting through and the love of God is not sufficiently abiding among us. We need a wake up call, a jolt to shock us out of our complacency, indifference and hardness of heart so we can see what “America First” and “border security” mean in terms of real world effects on real people. As poet Jane Taylor urges,

O then, let the wealthy and gay

But see such a hovel as this,

That in a poor cottage of clay

They may know what true misery is.

Let me be clear: The United States of America is not a Christian country-nor should it be. In fact, there is no such thing. As the author of the Letter to the Hebrews reminds us, “we have no lasting city, but we seek the city which is to come.” Hebrews 13:14. Nevertheless, though the nations are not required nor can they become Christian in any biblical sense, they are nevertheless called upon to be righteous. As the psalmist says, the nations are obliged to,

“Give justice to the weak and the fatherless;

Maintain the right of the afflicted

And the destitute.

Rescue the weak and the needy;

Deliver them from the hand of the wicked.”  Psalm 82:3-4

As church, we are the Body of Christ in the world, a Body that recognizes no borders, whether they be national, ethnic, religious, gender or racial. We believe that all nations are to be judged by the degree to which they have treated the most vulnerable of the human family. That is why we are commissioned with calling the nations, our own in particular, to do that which is commanded of them.

Here is the poem by Jane Taylor quoted in part above:

Poverty

I saw an old cottage of clay,
And only of mud was the floor;
It was all falling into decay,
And the snow drifted in at the door.

Yet there a poor family dwelt,
In a hovel so dismal and rude;
And though gnawing hunger they felt,
They had not a morsel of food.

The children were crying for bread,
And to their poor mother they’d run;
‘Oh, give us some breakfast,’ they said,
Alas! their poor mother had none.

She viewed them with looks of despair,
She said (and I’m sure it was true),
‘’Tis not for myself that I care,
But, my poor little children, for you.’

O then, let the wealthy and gay
But see such a hovel as this,
That in a poor cottage of clay
They may know what true misery is.
And what I may have to bestow
I never will squander away,
While many poor people I know
Around me are wretched as they.

Source: This poem is in the public domain. Jane Taylor 1783 1824 was an English poet and novelist. Though her best known work (seldom attributed to her) is the text for “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star,” Taylor contributed substantially to several collections of published poems. The authorship of individual poems within these collections is unclear and so it is impossible to determine precisely which ones were written by Taylor as opposed to her mother, Ann and other contributors. Her one novel, Display, published in (1814) went through at least 13 editions. Jane Taylor served as editor of the religious journal, Youth’s Magazine. She wrote numerous shorter pieces for that magazine, including moral tales and personal essays. You can learn more about Jane Taylor and sample more of her work at the Poetry Foundation website.


[1] One could reasonably argue that Saint John refers here to the love required of believers for fellow believers within his community and that I am taking the above verses out of context. Be that as it may, Jesus’ Parable of the Good Samaritan makes clear that the obligation to love one’s neighbor as oneself knows no political, ethnic or religious boundaries. Thus, the great commandment articulated by John as the rule for his church is no less applicable outside of our sanctuaries.

[2] Jeffrey Kaye is a freelance journalist and correspondent for PBS NewsHour.

[3] Chestnut, Robert A., A Post-Trump Postmortem for the Mainline Church (Progressive Southern Theologians Website, March 19, 2021).

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