He flees because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep. – John 10:13
Refugees and migrants have flooded into Croatia in recent days; politicians and private citizens are pontificating and losing sleep over the influx of so many foreigners.
In the US, immigrants have been coming in illegally for years, causing political stalemate and plenty of harsh discussion.
In nearly every country in the world, the idea of the foreigner has always been a political enigma. We are not the first generation to deal with such problems. Jesus of Nazareth himself knew of such issues and addressed them, over 2,000 years ago.
The double slippery slope
The problem, as we see it today, is a double slippery slope. Accept them all completely, and appear to be dismissive of our own country’s problems. Reject all foreigners, and appear needlessly harsh. But as usual, Jesus had a third way of addressing the issue that is outside of our frame of reference. And if we want to follow him, we will take note of his response to the situation and make it our own.
Jesus came saying, “I am ushering in a new kind of kingdom, a new country, with a new politic. It is not like yours, because yours is focused on your own country’s national interests. Mine is focused on the interests of God.”
The Kingdom of God is a kingdom of people whose primary citizenship has been transferred from their earthly kingdoms to the heavenly kingdom, and all true citizens of the heavenly kingdom will now value the things that are valuable to the heavenly King.
- Instead of valuing their own survival, they now value the survival of everyone else, because they know that their king cannot be defeated.
- Instead of valuing the strong and rich, they now value the poor in spirit, the meek, and the persecuted (Matthew 5), because their King specifically said that he came to lift up these kinds of people.
- Instead of valuing wealth and pleasure, the citizens of God’s kingdom specially value suffering, because they love their King, and suffering allows them to identify with him. Through suffering, the King triumphed over the world, and his subjects also triumph through their own suffering.
Jesus’ kingdom is a kingdom of people who “lay down their lives for the sheep.” They do so because Jesus, “the lamb on the throne” is their shepherd (Revelation 7:17), who gave up his own life for all of his sheep.
Our slippery slopes aren’t real.
Both sides of our slippery slopes are focused on our own glory and survival. If we accept all immigrants and refugees, we do it to show that we are the richest, most merciful, and most exceptional people on earth. If we reject all foreigners, we do it to safeguard our own survival, because our survival is of utmost importance. Both of our extremes glorify our own exceptionalism.
Jesus says that we are not ultimately merciful, because there is One who was more merciful than we can ever be. And he says that, even if we do not survive here and now, there is One who did survive, and can never be defeated.
Jesus comes with a completely different solution: don’t accept or reject people because you are exceptional. Accept those people that I accept, and reject those whom I reject — because I am exceptional.
Jesus informs our politics.
Unfortunately, most of us separate our political views completely from our views on Scripture. Or worse, we let our political views influence how we view Scripture.
But Jesus asks us to let the truth that he gives us inform all spheres of life. The reason is that political solutions are not ultimate solutions — all political solutions will fall short.
The only ultimate solutions for the problems that face us today are found in the gospel truth that Jesus gives us.
Do you want to be Jesus to the foreigners in your midst? Fine — here’s what Jesus did. All those who would have been able to give him power and comfort, he rejected. And all those who were in need, who were dirty, sinful, peniless, directionless, and without hope, he accepted. He went out and laid down his life for them, so that they could have life anew.
And he laid down his life for them before they even understood what he was all about. He didn’t lay down his life because of their great faith — he laid down his life to give them great faith. And in laying down his life, he obtained the ultimate victory.
I think Jesus asks — if I would listen to him — that I lay down my own comfort and wealth for the wellbeing of those who have no wealth and comfort. I think he’s saying that I spend too much time chasing after my own interests, fighting for my own survival, and I am not very concerned about the interests and survival of those who cannot defend themselves. His way is harder, but it is unquestionably better than my own way of living.
May I have the courage to follow him in all spheres of life.