By Katie Wivell
What is it that stops me?
What is it that keeps my eyes fixed on my feet when you walk past?
What is it that makes it so hard for me to stretch out my arms and welcome you?
Maybe it’s the ugly truth that I profess to be part of a Kingdom of grace, and unconditional love, and authentic community – and yet, I’ve still managed to carve out my own space.
My own space where I’m building a different kind of kingdom… Katie’s Kingdom.
In my kingdom, things roll smoothly for me.
And I work hard to keep it that way, I please the right people and I make sure I belong.
I make sure I have enough; love, respect, clothes, money, social hangs, Facebook likes, success stories…
Security, comfort, and belonging. These are my treasured possessions.
And you, with your differences and difficulties, you embody the insecurity that I flee from daily.
Why should I be the one to give up my seat and make a scene, and walk over to the one who is different!
I worked hard to get here! And I work hard daily, to keep everything in the right place.
So I’m sorry.
This kingdom can’t accommodate for your complicated need set today.
If I reach out to you, I’m afraid I’ll lose my balance.
And I’ll fall.
And this kingdom of comfort will slip from my hands.
And I’ll be the one on the outside.
Without a seat to sit in.
that is the thing I fear the most.
For me, these are the worries that have stopped me from helping people far too many times in the past. And they are the same kind of worries I see popping up everywhere at the moment. We look at refugees, and their insecurity and need and state of loss, and are reluctant to offer them substantial support. At the root of our reasons to not help those in need is FEAR.
Fear of what the cost might be to us.
I think for many of us, we are reluctant to take a stand on this refugee issue because we are too busy asking the question:
“If I do this, what will happen to me?”
If I welcome refugees into my country, my city, my community, what will happen to me?
Not enough of us are asking the question, “If I don’t to this, if we don’t do this, what will happen for them?”
And maybe we brush this question off by saying, well, someone else will help them, someone else will pick up the pieces. The countries closer to Syria will take them, and will be better equipped. We are just little New Zealand after all. But we weren’t just little New Zealand when we hosted the Rugby world cup, or signed the TPPA agreement…
As Christians, I think at a time like this we have an opportunity to be the voice of hope. And I would go as far as to call it a responsibility. Comfortable Christians have been saying, “somebody else will do it” about too many issues for too long. As followers of Jesus, who spent his entire life teaching us how to love sacrificially and restore what is broken, we are called to be those ‘somebody elses’ who do something about it.
This is a hard pill to swallow, especially because we live our day to day lives in an environment where nobody expects this kind of extravagant love and care from us. In our society, and sadly even in some of our churches, we are taught to pursue success. If we have a good career, stability, and still manage to be kind to others and turn up at church, then we are doing pretty well.
For a long time I was largely blind to the problem with this attitude in my own life.
But then I started to fall in love with Jesus.
And study him more. And soak up his ways and his purposes more.
And I realised if I was really a follower of Jesus, I needed to change my priorities, my goals, and broaden my social circles, to not just people like me, but to everyone, especially those who are strangers, or in need. And that is hard!
And this situation is HARD! And scary! And risky! I’m not saying that it isn’t.
But that doesn’t mean we can step over the issue and walk away.
Sometimes I catch myself trying to side step the possible things I could do to show God’s love to these people who desperately need it. And when I do, or when I see other Christians in our nation doing a similar thing, I remember when Jesus told the story of the Good Samaritan. If we’ve spent any time reading our Bibles or sitting in church, it’s a story we’ll be well familiar with. I remember this man who has been robbed and beaten lying in a desert road, close to death. And I see the priest approach him. Jesus sets up this scene so that we expect the priest to intervene and help, as any follower of a God of love would… But the priest looks at the man lying in the dust, weighs up his own desires and schedules, then steps over him and carries on his way.
When I deny any responsibility to help the refugees that want to start lives of freedom and safety in my community, I am like that priest.
When we, as the body of Christ in New Zealand, deny or fail to rise to any responsibility to help the refugees that want to start lives of freedom and safety in our communities, we are like that priest.
I’m not an expert on the refugee crisis. I don’t claim to be. I don’t work with them every day. There are questions I have about risks of taking on large numbers of refugees, and there are worries I’d have about trying to support a family when I know nothing about the reality of the suffering they’ve faced. But I can’t look at Jesus, and claim to follow him, and do nothing.
So my hope is that we would look at this issue with new eyes.
That we would start to be brave, and remember the kind of God that we follow.
That we would stop only asking the question, “but what will happen to me?”
That we would see refugees not as a threat to our comfort but as men and women and boys and girls who are just as loved and treasured by God as we are.
And we would start asking, “God, we are scared, and at time overwhelmed, but help us, what can we do for these your children?”
Katie is a youth worker in Campbell Bay, and also studying for her Social Work Degree in Auckland.
What are the fears that keep you from action? How have you responded to the refugee crisis?
What can you do this week to counter your fears?
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