The World Within Reach: Refugees Made Flesh

Why has so much Christian rhetoric gone the way either of sentimentality or anger, of loving everyone, which is not possible, or hating liberals, which is not permitted? Why have we capitulated to little more than echoing or refuting nothing more or higher than the nightly news? Why is that the news that determines our categories, our moods, our hopes? Why have Christians forgotten how to bring “good news of great joy” (Lk. 2:10) even if we are living “in the days of Herod, king of Judah” (Lk. 1:5). Why have Christians forgotten about Christmas?

Just because it’s a headline doesn’t mean that it’s important, that it rightly demands your attention, that it immediately affects your world, that it can add to or take away from your hope. The news media serves to do little more than to shape our attitudes, and to give us a constant buffet of rearranged words that we use to say the same thing–it’s like Mexican food. There is no nothing new under the sun. We’re just moving around the beans and rice.

…Because the unquenchable fires of the nightly news feed only on the world of decay, a world that requires the new to ever become old, a world that skims atop the surface of time desperately groping at what men identify as meaningful today but what moth will identify as food tomorrow. But Christians have been given a cross staked into history’s yesterday and Life raised up into history’s Tomorrow. That news has pierced the soul of the world, and it is the one thing that remains new precisely because it is the only thing that never grows old. It is the news that the angel heralded over history as “the everlasting good news…to every tribe, tongue and nation” (Rev. 14:6).

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think it is bad to be concerned with and aware of the global scene, especially if you are in a position to do something about it–you are probably not–but I do think it is bad to be unconcerned with and oblivious to the local scene. I’m suspicious of a man who decries world hunger but has never offered to buy a local man’s lunch, who endorses love for the world but doesn’t sit down to eat dinner with his family, who rails against abortion but doesn’t teach his son how to respect a woman, his daughter how to respect herself. The fact is, you can’t make your world different until your world becomes close enough to touch, low enough to look in the eye. That is your world. Everything bigger is a mirage. Anything more important is unimportant. And strangely enough, it is in that little insignificant world of yours, with hardly more than an earshot radius, that you will find meaning, purpose and permanence, because it is in that world that you will find God.

Q: “When did we see you hungry and feed you and thirsty and give you drink?”

A: “When you didn’t see me on a screen and when you gave me more than your opinions.”

In fact, when God saved the world, the worldwide web didn’t even exist. News feeds were word of mouth, and the words were from mouths that were not miked. It was even more primitive than a landline phone call.

If you want to find God-sized meaning you’ll have to look in human-sized places. I know. I know. Pity the man whose significance is as small as a manger and only as wide as a wingspan. Pity even the prospect of such man. He was a pitiful Man, indeed: his platform as little as a lakeside church, a voice not big enough even to project a Roman vote.

If you want to love a refugee, find one. If you can’t find one without a country, find one without home, or one without a father, or one with a father who may as well not be a father. Jaques Ellul’s axiom is instructive: “Think global but act local.” Do that and you can be guaranteed two things: first, you won’t get any public praise, because public opinion doesn’t care about small things, like persons; second, you’ll be a part of how God is actually preparing the world for global restoration: sending people across the street to bring “good tidings of great joy” in the way He himself did it that first Christmas Day, by making eye contact with a world of refugees.

#iknowitsnotyetadvent #sorrynotsorry #opinionsmadefleshanddweltamongliteralneighbors

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