Sandwiched in time between two catastrophic storms, the debate about undocumented immigrants raised it's head this week.
The decision to rescind the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals - referred to commonly as DACA - was announced. DACA allowed children, who were brought to the United States illegally "to receive a renewable two-year period of deferred action from deportation and eligibility for a work permit." This executive order by President Obama allowed 800,000 young people - called dreamers - relief from the fear of being forced to leave their homes.
The juxtaposition between how Christians are responding to the dreamers and how they are responding to the victims of Hurricane Harvey and Irma highlights our desire to love the stranger and our fear of the sacrifice that love requires.
While our country debates immigration, East Texas and Louisiana are recovering from devastating flooding. At the same time, Florida and Georgia are preparing for the destructive forces of Hurricane Irma. Our country has responded with an outpouring of love for the hurricane victims. People from my small town have joined Americans from across the country in sending several semi-trucks full of aid to Houston and have opened their homes to strangers escaping the storms. The wiliness to love the victims of the hurricanes is inspiring. However, it demands that we ask, why is it so easy to follow Jesus in the face of a disaster and so terrifying to follow him in every day life? Can the inspiring outpouring of love for the hurricane victims be an example for how we love all those in need?
A Picture of Daily Hospitality
One of my friends opens her home, heart and wallet daily to all those in need - victims of natural disasters as well as those victims of systematic issues. She is the first person to volunteer when she hears a need. Her house is full of hand me down furniture and yet she always volunteers to buy a birthday cake for a foster child. Her children get donations to non-profits as birthday gifts. She advocates for racial equality at the expense of family and friends. And as she gets ready grow her family by fostering a child, she asked, Would a hurricane evacuee like to stay with us?
Her life is a picture of hospitality. The Greek term that we translate as hospitality is φιλόξενος (philoxena). Philoxena is derived from φιλό (Philo) – which means to love like a brother – and ξενος (Xenos) – which means stranger. Together the two words translate as to love a stranger like a brother.
Hospitality requires us to have both the flexibility to respond quickly with love to disasters and the strength to sacrificially love those who are trapped in systematic injustices.
The Difficulty of Loving the Stranger
It is natural to respond to disasters with love and to be skeptical of victims of systematic injustice. There are two reasons that make loving those trapped in systematic injustice, like the dreamers, difficult.
First, loving victims of natural disasters has an end date. We can respond lavishly to a crisis, because we know the crisis will end. But to love victims of systematic issues means to continually sacrifice for other people.
Secondly, we cannot assign blame to the victims of a hurricane. The debate over immigration is more complicated. Complication gives us excuses to reserve our hospitality.
However, God doesn't give us the freedom to pick and choose who we welcome into our lives. God commands in Leviticus "When you reap the harvest of your land, do not reap to the very edges of your field or gather the gleanings of your harvest. Leave them for the poor and for the foreigner residing among you. I am the LORD your God." God calls us to sacrifice for the poor and the foreigner without exception. We are called to love the hurricane victims and the dreamers regardless of what it costs and our political beliefs.
Inspired to Love
The response to the hurricane victims has been inspiring. Seeing the way those like my friend have lived out radical hospitality has inspired me to open my home to all strangers. I will choose to open up my home, my wallet and my heart to all those in need, including the victims of Hurricane Harvey, Hurricane Irma and the dreamers.
Let our hospitality for the dreamers mirror our inspiring hospitality for the victims of Harvey and Irma.