From the Rev. Tony Hutchinson, Trinity, Ashland
Today is the feast day of the conversion of St. Paul. The story of his conversion—a vicious persecutor of the church (all for the best of religious reasons to his mind) is on the Road to Damascus to do further persecution where he encounters the Risen Lord and turns his life around, becoming “a chosen vessel” to take the gospel to the gentiles—this story above all teaches us that old dogs can learn new tricks, and people can change their direction completely around. We must never give up on each other.
The White House is announcing today Executive Orders that will shut down refugee access to the U.S. and begin the process of building the wall against immigration the President campaigned on. Yesterday, Executive Orders seeking to defeat the goals of the Water Protectors at Standing Rock were also issued. In light of this, I thought I should simply repeat the teaching of Scripture and let the Word of God speak for itself:
“The foreigner who resides with you shall be to you as the citizen among you; you shall love the foreigner as one of your own, for you were foreigners in the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God” (Lev. 19:34).
“You shall not wrong or oppress the foreigner who lives among you, for you were foreigners in the land of Egypt” (Exod. 22:21).
“Do not oppress a foreigner; you yourselves know how it feels to be foreigners, because you were foreigners in Egypt” (Exodus 23:9).
Are you unwilling to help someone, or have the rulers help someone, because that person is an “illegal alien?” Can you imagine having to explain such thinking and feeling to God? The very phrase suggests that an entire class of human beings is “illegal” and thus not worthy of compassion.
To such thinking, the Bible tells us, “Care for the foreigner in your midst, because you too were once foreigners.” This includes aliens as well as indigenous peoples who have been turned into aliens in their own land. Helping others in need merely because they are in need is a central demand of our faith. It is just that simple.
The prophet Ezekiel says that the sin that brought God’s condemnation on the Cities of the Plain (Sodom and Gomorrah) was ignoring the needs of the poor, to the point of abusing them, in the midst of abundance:
“Behold, this was the guilt of your sister Sodom: she and her daughters had arrogance, abundant food, and careless ease, but she did not help the poor and needy. Thus they were haughty and committed abominations before Me. Therefore I removed them when I saw it” (Ezek. 16:49-51).
Social Justice is a biblical doctrine, and anyone who wishes to truly preach the Bible must be willing to preach social justice. Anyone who truly wants their faith and actions to be grounded in the Bible will make it a major part of their efforts.
This was originally posted January 25, 2017 on Fr. Tony’s blog: An Elliptical Glory.