“Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to them, “go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.” James 2:15-17
Summer is nearing its run while hints of fall arise with every yellowing leaf on cornstalks, announcing harvest is near. It is my favorite time of year.
However, there is an unsettling breeze which gives one pause to think what it might be. Perhaps it is nothing at all, but only a flashback from earlier times. Yet it persists, as if it lingers to observe our thoughts and actions. Maybe this is our watershed moment, an inflection point, if you will. Where we go from here determines the fate of this nation, this people, this last call to rise up and be who we were called to be.
Emma Lazarus, a name long forgotten by the teeming masses, their descendants now living the good life, penned these words, now immortalized on a plaque at the base of the Statue of Liberty;
The New Colossus
Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.
“Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she
With silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”
One wonders at the scripture quote linked above this secular poem. It speaks to the excruciating experiences of former times, when poverty and starvation and oppression were not unique experiences for nearly all of our ancestors. It also speaks to the condition of the heart of man. And we dare not ignore this to our own peril.
We are a people of immigrants, descendants of those who sacrificed everything to bring all of their hopes and dreams to a land of promise. Every breath we take is a gift, not only from God above, but also from those men and women who decided it was worth the effort to give their children the opportunity to live in a land where they could live in peace.
Today, we are witnesses to folks, much like our ancestors, who chose to make that ultimate sacrifice to leave their homeland, though much loved, the oppression and corruption is too much for them to bear to stay behind.
They arrive on our shores or borders, and today, rather than establishing reasonable and equitable regulations to consider each individual and family’s plight, we arrest them upon reaching our borders, incarcerate them, separating parents from children, holding them in cages, not providing for reasonable care, we have become the very evil symbol of a fascist government we once defeated in World War II.
These words are harsh, but the shoe fits. How do we, as a “Christian” nation, ignore the scriptures calling for compassionate care, mindful that were it not for the grace of God, we might have been born elsewhere, subject to the horrors of war, gang violence, the drug trade and human trafficking?
Offering “thoughts and prayers” is not enough. Without action, words are meaningless and a reflection of an empty, stone-cold heart. May God forgive us and open our eyes to see how much we do need his grace and mercy.