In a recent sermon, a reference was made to John 10:16, where Jesus speaks of the Gentiles as “other sheep that are not of this sheep pen,” it struck me that we live in similar times.
At that time, the focus of the Kingdom was upon the redemption of the House of Israel, but there was coming a shift, soon a “grafting” in of others than the Jews. The religious at that time were defiant in their segregation of non-Jews, ethnicity and disease were treated similarly, with Samaritans shamed as much as lepers. Yet, we witness the God-man, Christ, opening a door for redemption in the face of Pharisees that had until now been the gatekeepers of religion. Jesus was declaring a new day on behalf of a God unwilling that any should perish.
I find myself wondering if we might be in a similar time? Could God be stirring American Christianity toward a new day in similar time when religion has caused us to so “own” Jesus that others feel rejection if they are of other ilk than we?
Who are these rejected? A portion of the 1883 sonnet by Emma Lazarus comes to mind:
“Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to be free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”
Yes, you recognize it, don’t you? Maybe not as The Collossus, its rightful title, but as the poem engraved in bronze within the Statue of Liberty. That welcoming icon has been the delight of immigrants for centuries, and the sweat of those same immigrants has made our nation great.
Would we now as “American Christians” stand guard over this land, as if it were our’s alone, though sovereign providence has established this land as a bastion of freedom for all people? An could it be, that the Creator is now calling others to this land, offering the followers of Christ (The Door) an opportunity to engage a people, “a sheep”, in fact a new sheep that we have yet considered his?
What am I implying? Think about it, who are those we most fear, most reject in our day…that seed of Abraham that came through Hagar, the one to whom God sent an angel to console in Genesis 16:9-13. God heard her cry and God’s message to Hagar was not one of rejection but promise, if she would go back to Sarai and submit to her. She did and Abram named the child Ishmael. Apparently, that generational wounding has over the centuries created a struggle, yet that DNA cannot resist His divine desire to reconcile, though difficult for the humans involved. God loves people!
We are of other descent, “the grafted in” and have little right to reject this seed of Abraham. In case you are struggling at this point, consider the question posed in Romans 9:14-15: “‘Is God unjust? Not at all! For he says to Moses, “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion.”’
“I will call them ‘my people’ who are not my people; and I will call her ‘my loved one’ who is not my loved one.” Romans 9:25. Yes he was talking about us then, but maybe now He is calling another than us and we too must love those whom God loves.
In the scripture verse above, the writer of Romans is quoting Hosea 2:23, and we know that Hosea’s context was wrapped around a wife who was unfaithful, a harlot. We, the people of God have been unfaithful to his call, first in the people of Israel, then those Gentiles grafted in under the Cross of Calvary, and now possible those in this last bastion of freedom we call America, who profess to follow His Son, Jesus.
Shall we not love those whom God is sending to our shores? Would we fight against God, blocking the door that God is now moving the seed of Abraham toward, though some coming kicking and screaming, even as radical as the Islamic Jihadist? I came kicking and screaming and He received me!
Shall our fear of men over ride our love for God’s people?
Had we responded differently on 9/11, possibly rather than “shock and awe” , simply humbling ourselves before the Lord (beyond just the couple Sundays that our churches were full), our country’s condition might now be different and fewer lives lost in total? I’m really not trying to “arm-chair quarterback” our defense strategies, but do feel we American Christians have room for growth in the area of love for our fellow man.
“Perfect love casts out fear.” (I Jn. 4:18)