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Behold, this was the guilt of your sister Sodom: she and her daughters had pride, excess of food, and prosperous ease, but did not aid the poor and needy. -- Ezekiel 16: 49 (ESV)
It is shameful that I have to even write this. That the church has gone so far off the rails that it now stands with things that are so obviously against the teachings of Jesus Christ that even the world sees it. That Christians would need to ask "who would Jesus ban" is embarrassing. We all know that in the past 24 hours the President of the United States, who is in office largely due to the church, has instituted a ban from all entry into this country from seven Muslim countries that greatly affects refugees from war torn areas. I do not even wish to get into the politics because the larger issue for us is related to the church and her response. First let us establish a Biblical baseline from which to understand the heart of God:
(the sojourner has not lodged in the street; I have opened my doors to the traveler), - Job 31: 32 (ESV)
"You shall not oppress a sojourner. You know the heart of a sojourner, for you were sojourners in the land of Egypt. -- Exodus 23: 9 (ESV)
"Likewise, when a foreigner, who is not of your people Israel, comes from a far country for your name's sake (for they shall hear of your great name and your mighty hand, and of your outstretched arm), when he comes and prays toward this house, hear in heaven your dwelling place and do according to all for which the foreigner calls to you, in order that all the peoples of the earth may know your name and fear you, as do your people Israel, and that they may know that this house that I have built is called by your name. -- 1Kings 8: 41-43
But he, desiring to justify himself, said to Jesus, "And who is my neighbor?" Jesus replied, "A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and he fell among robbers, who stripped him and beat him and departed, leaving him half dead. Now by chance a priest was going down that road, and when he saw him he passed by on the other side. So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side.But a Samaritan, as he journeyed, came to where he was, and when he saw him, he had compassion. He went to him and bound up his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he set him on his own animal and brought him to an inn and took care of him. And the next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper, saying, 'Take care of him, and whatever more you spend, I will repay you when I come back.' Which of these three, do you think, proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell among the robbers?" He said, "The one who showed him mercy." And Jesus said to him, "You go, and do likewise." -- Luke 10: 29-37 (ESV)
There are some things that are more difficult to parse out through Scripture but this subject is not one of them. God's heart regarding the foreigner or sojourner among you has always been clear and always been consistent. The number one topic in the entire Bible after salvation is taking care of people, especially the least in society. The exile, the outcast, the widow, the orphan, the refugee. The first verse is from Job, widely considered one of the oldest books in the Bible. This is part of Job's final plea to the Lord. About how he has always tried to live a life pleasing to God and what do we find right in the middle of it? His assertion that no one ever had to sleep in the street because of him. That his house was always open for the foreigner and sojourner. We act as if opening up our country to take people whose lives have been eviscerated by war, wars we were involved in as a country, is too great a burden to carry.
The Exodus verse is God directly instructing the Israelites about how they ought to treat the sojourner. That they needed to remember that they too were sojourners once in Egypt. A sojourner is just passing through. They are living in a land that is not their own. A land that is foreign to them. This is so critically important for believers to understand because we too are exiles:
Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul. -- 1Peter 2: 11 (ESV)
We are supposed to be sojourners and exiles in this land. Herein lies the problem when the church conforms to the world as the American Church has done. Christians wrongly view the church as part of the world when it is not. It is supposed to be a shining city on a hill as a light to draw people out from the world. The church however does not act as exiles in this land. We act as if we want to take over this land and turn it into a theocracy. We get defensive about this land instead of being concerned with people. Do we remember people at all anymore? We are celebrating the banning of people in dire need of a place to stay and the Gospel? Seriously? What did Jesus Himself teach us?
"You have heard that it was said, 'You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.' But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect. -- Matthew 5: 43-48 (ESV)
Love your enemies! Pray for those who persecute you! How can we only be willing to greet our brothers? That is what the unsaved world does and quite frankly in this case they seem more willing to help than we are! Look at the verses from 1Kings. Is this not how we should aspire our country to be? To be known from the far corners of the earth as the country with outstretched arms and a mighty name? Shouldn't the lost in other countries hear that about the church at a minimum? That we stand with the foreigner and the sojourner because we ourselves are foreigners, exiles and sojourners. Do you know what this set of Scriptures is from? It is from the prayer Solomon offers up dedicating the new temple of the Lord. He is praying that they always bring glory and honor to the name of God. How much honor have Christians wrought in this scenario?
Then we come into the New Testament and while there were plenty of Scriptures to choose from, I went with the Parable of the Good Samaritan. Jesus paints the hero as the Samaritan because they were reviled by Jewish culture at the time. It would be today casting this person as a Muslim. The anti-hero to make God's point. Loving mercy is when we take care of those we might secretly hate. Look at the story too. Religion passed along the other side of the street. Religion wanted nothing to do with this sojourner. They found spiritual reasons to walk on the other side of the street. They wrapped up their callousness in pseudo-piety as we often do. As I have seen Christians already try and do when defending this ban from a Christian perspective. The church right now looks to the world like the Levite in this parable but there is still time to get on the right side of the road and be the Good Samaritan.
That brings us to our key verse for today. In pronouncing judgment the Lord, through the Prophet Ezekiel, compares them to Sodom. In an earlier verse He speaks about the abominations and lasciviousness but here God also points out the root cause of their apparent apathy towards other people and that was pride. Behold the guilt of the church today! The church is proud. The church has an excess of food. The church has a prosperous ease. But when it has the opportunity to help the needy and the poor, it seems the church wants to side with the darker elements of this world instead of following the teachings of our Lord and Savior. Sure there are always those faux-missions trips to build playgrounds in third world countries so we can feel like we are doing our part but that is mostly for show and to ease our troubled mind. It is not lost on the world however and it is not lost on God. The guilt of Sodom is the guilt of the church.
Beloved hear me very well. The world can do whatever the world wants to do. The president can do what he wants to do. When it comes to him our job is to pray for him so that we might lead quiet lives in all holiness and peace. But we are not first citizens of these United States. We are in fact sojourners in these lands. Our citizenship is in heaven and our King is Jesus Christ. Our job is to bring honor to His name not find the path of greatest political expediency. We should not be caught on the wrong side of this or any other humanitarian crisis. If the church will not stand for the oppressed, downtrodden and marginalized then who on earth will?