In the weeks following the executive order on immigration, many concerned Christians have spoken out about the importance of loving our neighbors. Twice in the last month, I have experienced powerful retellings of the parable of the Good Samaritan—an ancient story which speaks to a deep need for our present society to care for the vulnerable. Christians are boldly denouncing walls and borders while offering a vision of hospitality which welcomes refugees and immigrants regardless of their nationality, ethnicity or religion. I have seen evidence of this radical faith both in media coverage and here in Orange City, where chapel speakers and pastors have voiced their concern for the oppressed, for Syrian refugees, Muslim and Christian alike, who are searching for safety. These speakers preach radical love while subtly subverting the political powers who perpetuate a message of fear and hatred.
These messages compel me to reevaluate my love for these neighbors and are timely and necessary. However, these subtle remarks jabbing the opposition have begun to make me uneasy. I have discovered a problem within myself which must be addressed before I can wholeheartedly advocate for a universal love of neighbor. While it may come naturally for me to understand the importance of extending love to the most vulnerable, I find myself withholding that same love from those with whom I disagree.
When differences of opinion over the policies of the current administration force Christians into an “us and them” mentality, our love falls short. My feelings of impatience, frustration and intolerance are often directed at the mere sight of a “Make America Great Again” baseball cap. I see it as a symbol of a leader whose political agenda aims to oppress women, environmentalists, immigrants, refugees and marginalized people of any kind, and I am often unwilling to look past my opinions on these matters and truly see the person, made in the image of God, wearing that hat. To extend goodwill to one group of people while withholding it from another does not advance the Kingdom of God, and I am guilty of just that.
None of this is to say that we should not pursue justice for the oppressed or simply accept the prevailing opinions of our administration and its supporters. The most vulnerable people in our global society should not be used as a pawn in American politics. However, our advocacy for refugees and immigrants (along with the environment and women) becomes ineffective if it does not extend the same measure of love to all people. The love may be of a different nature—an extension of grace to those in need or a gentle rebuke to those who withhold hospitality out of fear—but our hospitality must remain the same. Honest conversations about what it means to follow Jesus here and now must be approached with open-mindedness from all people. Christians do not have the luxury of indulging the “us and them” mentality; we are called to unity. At Northwestern, we must be willing to engage in the difficult conversations about what it means to love our neighbors around the world and those right here with political and theological positions different from our own.