I remember on November 8th when Brit and I sat and watched the results come in, we were expecting like everyone for a completely different outcome. Slowly though, we realized that was not going to happen and what we had hoped wouldn’t happen, was happening.
We were genuinely scared and frightened. How would this impact us and the people we loved. We all heard the rhetoric coming from the new President elect but didn’t quite believe it would be as bad as was being made out.
The first week and a half of his term has shown that maybe it could be as bad. Worse even.
As a white Christian male who is here on a Green card from the UK, there is a certain amount of safety I feel about my position amidst all this. If I’m honest, I feel a little bit of guilt about that. I’ve had to snap out of that quickly though because if I want where I just happened to be born to have any impact, I want it to be one I use for others.
Perhaps even more pertinently, if the faith that I also just happened to be born into is to have any effect, I want and need it to be one that stands up for others, not one that sits back and relaxes.
It is so incredibly easy to forget or explain away that Jesus was a refugee. If Jesus was born today he would have been one of those people that the President is trying to keep out. Think about that for a second. Put aside the danger of terrorists for one moment and imagine Jesus being put in handcuffs.
Jesus constantly reminded His listeners that how you treat the “least of these” is how you treat Him.
When we treat those who seek a safe place to live with ignorance. When we treat someone who we don’t understand with caution and disgust. When we treat someone form another religion with fear.
When we treat people in ways like this, we treat Jesus in ways like that.
But the words of Jesus have for far too long been taken out of the context of the Roman oppressive regime that they were set. They weren’t words originally used to make us feel good, thousands of years later. They were words used for people, tempted to hate and react violently towards their oppressors. They were used for Peter when he tried to attack his enemy. They were used towards Zaccheaus, an abuser of his power over the people.
Jesus was deeply political and Jesus was a refugee.
I saw Jesus this weekend not in church or from a pulpit, but from the people showing up at airports in their thousands to stand up for innocent men, women, children and babies who have been detained and separated from their families for no reason at all.
I’ve seen Jesus in the lawyers who have given their time to stand up for an injustice that they can’t sit back and do nothing about.
In those bringing food and supplies.
It’s only been 13 days but a lot is changing and how we continue to respond as believers in Jesus is going to have more of an impact than we can imagine.
I think of Jesus’ words about turning the other cheek at times like these. An alternative way to react to those who inflict injustice on us by laying down our swords. But it means so much more.
Hitting someone with the back of your right hand, as was typical, would signify a power you held over that person. A master would use it on his slave. In case you were under any doubt about who was in power here, let me show you.
To turn the other cheek then, meant offering up the other side of your face. Normally the left side. To hit some on the left cheek would require you to use the inside of your right palm or an outright fist. Unless of course you were incredibly bendy.
This type of violence on someone was reserved for someone who you considered your equal. Sure you’re having a fight but you hold respect for that person.
Suddenly, without having to lift a finger you have forced your enemy to consider you their equal. You’ve exposed the injustice and you’ve turned it completely around.
How incredible is that?
When we read this and the following examples Jesus used, of walking an extra mile and giving someone your shirt in this new light, we realize that Jesus was not demanding us to sit down and just put up with whatever injustices we face. Nor was he asking us to get aggressive and demand our pound of flesh. He was asking us to creatively and wonderfully subvert power. To turn the tables in ways that would make everyone stop and take notice.
MLK understood this. Ghandi understood this. Millions of ordinary people everyday understand this. This weekend I saw images of thousands of people in airports understanding this.
Sitting that night with Brittany, we felt despair. But that quickly turned to hope. Hope that actually now we have an amazing opportunity to shine a light into a darkness that was coming soon. Not by sitting back and taking it like a good cheek turning Christian, but by creatively subverting the oppression that was inevitable.
It’s early days still and there will be many more difficult days and weeks to come but when we unite and try something different, we’ll wear hate down.
And that’s a type of power that is hard to beat.