I don’t spend much time or particular awareness to the evil powers of this world. It seems to me a waste of good energy and my particular theological understanding is fairly simple – what we give attention, time, and energy receives more power and what we don’t give attention, time, and energy starves. That’s way more basic than the tomes of books we’ve read and have been written throughout religious history around evil, but I’m kind of a meat and potatoes person, so the nuances are not what I want my mental energy to attend on this subject. When Jesus comes out of the wilderness and is tempted, he talks about the tempter as “ha-satan” the closest translation being “the adversary.” Evil power in that sense is that which is adversarial to what God wants for, with, and in us. In each moment, Jesus turns the tempter away with an essential understanding of what God wants that is deeper, wiser, and more blessed, not only for him, but for the community of which he is a part and to which he has been called and sent to walk with, build relationship, and lead.
At each juncture he chooses to turn away from what would inflate, satiate, and aggrandize himself to that which will feed and nurture and grow his partnership with God in community with God’s beloved people. Looking to that is much of why I love, admire, respect, worship, and want to follow this Living Word we know as Jesus. That may not be a grand revelation, but every once in awhile I need to remind myself of that and this is one of those times.
As I’m certain each of you have been, I have been searching my heart and soul around the immigration crisis at our southern border. The stark image of the father and his 2 year old daughter on the beach having drowned trying to cross the Rio Grande, is seared into the backs of my eyelids as is the image of the little boy on the beach probably over a year ago now. Whether we’re for it or against it or simply want to stay in denial, the world is seeing the largest human migration in history. It isn’t simply a crisis in the southern part of the U.S., it’s a global crisis on every continent. What does it mean from an historical and universal view for the arc of humanity’s existence? We may not know that for multiple generations, what we know now is that we live on a globe where violence, the natural disasters of drought and hurricane/flooding lead to a loss of food and clean water to such an extent that the risks of dying on a journey toward survival seems the only option to dying in an unsustainable situation at home. Are we to blame these people for holding out hope that anywhere else is better than their current existence? If I were a parent in that situation, would I simply give up and offer my child’s death as the best possibility for the future, or would I take a slim chance that there might be another way?
Like nearly every issue of any import, there is not an easy answer and to make it seem so is being less than authentic. The work our churches and not for profits are doing along the borders to offer aide and comfort deserve our prayers and perhaps our financial investment if we feel so led. Making our voices count in calling our congressional and legislative and executive leaders as well as informing ourselves to make our votes count is our civic responsibility. Deciding NOT to hate, or ignore, or pretend that those seeking shelter and asylum are less valuable human beings and totally different than we are, is an essential requirement for people of faith. If we were in the same situation? Do we truly believe we wouldn’t try and find a way to live and offer our children life with whatever sliver of possibility there might be? And if we wouldn’t, would we judge ourselves or our neighbors as good parents? I simply keep thinking these moms and dads don’t want anything different for their children as we want for ours, they simply happened to be born into different situations – so are we better than or more blessed because we were born in the United States? Really?
Sometimes there’s a troubling in my soul. I do well to attend to that troubling – I believe God not only speaks in the beauty and the joy and the moments when everything works together for good, I believe God also speaks in the struggle, in the turmoil, in the times of troubling of the soul to shake us from our reverie into the reality that yes, we are our brother and our sister’s keepers – so yes, what’s happening at the borders does make a difference. So I pray, and I pray, and I pray. Sometimes the prayers bring tears at what seems the futility of saving lives of those I don’t even know; sometimes they bring peace that God holds every person, child and adult, in God’s embrace and finally no one is lost to God; sometimes they bring urgency that maybe my one small act, my one small donation, my one short phone call and/or voicemail to a legislator’s office, my one gentle hand and word to a neighbor reaches out and multiplies with everyone else doing the same and the world might begin to change.
I believe that which is adversarial to God seeks to convince us we are alone, we must hold selfishly to our abundance, we must believe in scarcity so that fear of loss distorts and rules our decisions, and that finally hate is that which will, in the end, protect us. Jesus, after eating nothing for 40 days in the wilderness, after having no other human to offer emotional or spiritual sustenance, turns the adversary back with a living faith in a living God whose presence brings us to more than we can ever bring ourselves. The scriptures says that the adversary leaves . . . but only until a more opportune time.
I refuse to give emotional, physical, or mental energy to the adversary because I want that which is adversarial to God to starve. And in the moments I need to attend that there is evil in the world, I pray for the courage to face it with humility and confidence in Jesus, that I might not gain the whole world, only to lose my soul. I pray we will not move down the road to becoming a soul-less people – having all we need and want, but caring not for the neighbor around the corner and around the world. The migration of the world’s population will not be solved soon or easily, but it is a reality we must respond to together and with as much faith as we can passionately muster. Spiritual, prayerful, financial, civic, and political action are called of us as brothers and sisters living in faith to move toward God’s vision for the world. Agreement on all things is not essential, grace and mercy and the conviction that God’s love wins, is.