February 5, 2017 by Ron Madson
If the applied Gospel of Jesus is not good news for refugees then it is not “good news” for any of us.
Jesus smashed all the icons of his time. He declared a Kingdom of God that, as was demonstrated in both his words and deeds, was universally inclusive and inviting of the very least, those considered the most “vile” sinners, the “others,” the rejected–even from the ranks of one’s ‘enemies.’ Echoing Isaiah, His Kingdom would be inhabited from those coming from “east, west, north and south” for “more are the children of the desolate than the married wife”—meaning those in His kingdom would come from all faiths, religions, cultures and even those who knew not Jesus and they would come in far greater numbers than those considered the “married wife” —meaning more would come from outside the church/priesthood of His time than those who created those walls of exclusion—for the church leaders thought that they held the keys in deciding who could and could not enter His Kingdom. But Jesus “rent that veil” once and for all. Those in His Kingdom would not be defined by their adherence to any defined doctrine, creed or any priesthood.
No! They were defined by what the first Christians called “The Way.” The Way was a way of life and those that exhibited the virtues of His Sermon on the Mount were part of His Kingdom no matter their culture, ethnic background, Jew or Gentile, race, free or slave.
The first christians that knew Jesus and were born again in His image emulated his fearlessness in accepting the risk of those that were different or considered a “threat.” They took risks going into hostile territory to spread the gospel. If we honor those with such fearlessness and imagine ourselves co-disciples, but do not have even enough courage to take in already extensively vetted refugees fleeing from the horrors of the devastation we western nations created in their countries, then how utterly pathetic is our imagined faith. There is a one in 3.4 billion chance (based on data/history and not Trumpian fear mongering) of a refugee harming you or I—and yet we would even consider turning down refugees while at the same time thinking we could be part of His Kingdom or have the audaciousness to call ourselves Christians.
If you think that my/your/our church is the “Kingdom of God” you missed Jesus’ most comprehensive and all inclusive message. A church or any church is only a means to an end and not the end in and of itself. There is no such thing as a “true” church but rather churches that are more or less effective in creating Kingdom like people. One of the best ways to know if your church is “Kingdom Like” is the degree of its inclusivity. The Kingdom Jesus proclaimed was defined by certain traits and not sectarian “truths” or lines of authority (these ‘priesthoods’ gate keeping or innumerable control levers were added as the “more that cometh of evil” our sacred texts warned against) The first christians were defined by their constant repeating and seeking to live the Beatitudes–that is how His teachings survived. It was a “Way of Life” and not a catechism. It is still a way of life He is inviting us to follow His Way:
34 Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world:
35 For I was an hungred, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in. —Matthew 24: 34,35
“If the gospel isn’t good news for everybody, then it isn’t good news for anybody. And this is because the most powerful things happen when the church surrenders its desire to convert people and convince them to join. It is when the church gives itself away in radical acts of service and compassion, expecting nothing in return, that the way of Jesus is most vividly put on display. To do this, the church must stop thinking about everybody primarily in categories of in or out, saved or not, believer or nonbeliever. Besides the fact that these terms are offensive to those who are the “un” and “non”, they work against Jesus’ teachings about how we are to treat each other. Jesus commanded us to love our neighbor, and our neighbor can be anybody. We are all created in the image of God, and we are all sacred, valuable creations of God. Everybody matters. To treat people differently based on who believes what is to fail to respect the image of God in everyone. As the book of James says, “God shows no favoritism.” So we don’t either.”
– Rob Bell– A preacher of the universal Gospel of Jesus
“For God has not given us the spirit of fear, but of love” 2 Timothy 1:7