Words and images on the news this last week or so have included the death of a father and baby daughter on route to the Mexican/US border, of US refugee detention centres, with torture-like conditions reported, and the lone man who sadly passed away stowed in an aircraft. These are added to by remembering those who have recently tried to cross the English Channel, and of those who have lost their lives crossing the Mediterranean Sea. All were in search of freedom from persecution or oppression, or for what they perceive as a better life, where they could earn enough to send money home to those struggling with poverty.
This is nothing new. The picture above is in a collection of images given to those on a URC media courses at Windemere in the late 1990’s, early 2000’s. It is of Cuban asylum seekers. It is a recurring theme, which does not go away just because it’s not on our television screens. It has probably been an issue since homo sapiens first came to life, with our free choice which has turned to oppression and abuse in every generation, as well as bringing creativity and generosity.
The reaction of others, of those who already live in the places asylum seekers and economic migrants come to, is also mixed, as we know. It can be mixed to anyone who is different, which includes to those who look or behave differently, to those whose views are not our own, or those with challenging issues. It can be one of welcome and hospitality, or one which emphasizes difference and therefore invokes fear. As followers of Jesus we are challenged to, “Love your neighbour as yourself.” Mark 12.31 (NIV), our neighbour even being the one we feel most uncomfortable with.
This has implications in our Christian lives. We are often tempted to gloss it over and get on with life, even in Church life. In theory, Jesus’ words are all fine. We affirm them, and give money or volunteering time to good causes. Yet when it becomes personal, we can want to keep ourselves to ourselves and stay inside our comfort zones.
Love is an action word, which calls us out to others. It is not one which is a fanciful concept. Rather, it is one which calls us to get involved in the lives of others, in very practical ways, in often very messy situations. It calls us to bring hope and peace, to bring the good news of the Kingdom to all, as we reach out with the love and presence of Jesus. It also calls us to pray, to pray as we meet others, and as we offer mutual friendship and a sharing of our lives and our abundance. In those ways we are often then enriched by the presence of Christ in others.
Rev Clare Davison