Can I be blunt?
I usually try to finesse words, make a little romance, ask the syllables to play nicely together in straight and pretty lines for a quaint bedtime tale. But, tonight, there is tear gas, and babies are crying, and people are sleeping in the open. There are living, breathing humans who will soon be picking their way through kilometers of undetonated land mines into Croatia. There is a dad with two kids who walked on a broken ankle with a tiny hand in each of his to reach a gate before it closed.
And for what? Why? What is the moral of this story?
There are so many theories out there about why the Middle Eastern world is leaving homes and uprooting families to make a terrifying journey to Europe: Economic. Religious. Extremism. War. Prophecy. We all have our theories and our fears.
But, Christians, we can take all of those and file them in a folder called ‘another story’.
The rest of this post is for the Jesus people. If you do not identify in that way, then you are welcome to keep reading, but understand that you are not the intended audience.
You see, we Christians have a little problem on our hands – a little family issue that we need to sort through.
It turns out, that our God actually does answer prayer.
And, right now, that is a problem for us. Sometimes the family chafes at how God scripts his answers. Oh, we would never say it that way, but when you push down through legitimate fears about ISIS and jihad, and all the rest of the rhetoric, we Christians are left with one very basic question.
What happens when God tells you to ‘Go!’?
We have an epic proportioned problem on our hands that started with prayer. Have you prayed for the Middle East?
Have you prayed that dreams and visions of Jesus would be realized?
Have you prayed for peace in nations, in hearts, in lives?
Have you prayed that Jesus would be revealed?
Have you prayed … envisioning that God would call brave missionary souls to pack up their comfortable life and move into the danger zones of Syria, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iran.
We did. We all did.
We prayed for their safety, their boldness, their language acquisition, that God would give them cross-cultural wisdom. And we got out our wallets and we gave so that they could go. ‘God bless ya.‘
And now, we need to stop. Put on the brakes. Backtrack. Reverse motion.
Because God just sent a world to our doors in answer to our prayers. And we don’t like it.
Funny, how God works. Mayhap, he is penning a comedy up there?
The world is crossing your borders. Moving into your neighborhoods. Eating lunch with your kids. It turns out that missionary to the Middle East … it’s YOU.
A little Bible story
Anybody out there remember a little night-time tale about a dude named Jonah? Big fish. Little boat. Big city known for its terrorism called Ninevah.
There are a few golden nuggets of wisdom that most folk can carry away from this Biblical story:
-the pagans in the boat were more compassionate and heroic than the man of God
-the pagans knew what the man of God should have been doing … umm, being obedient
-God called Jonah to Ninevah because the harvest was ready
-Sometimes God asks his people to engage dangerous people in dangerous places
-God is long-suffering with pagans, but he has stiff expectations of his people and their obedience, and he has big whales at his disposal
-Ninevah, a place known for its terrorism …repented.
The moral of the story
The moral of that story for me has always been … I don’t want to be a Jonah.
Is that not what we teach our kids in Sunday School? Learn from Jonah: Be obedient. Go where God wants you to go. Do what he wants you to do – even if it seems dangerous, or it doesn’t make sense. And … there are consequences for chosen disobedience. When God calls, you go – no matter what.
Quite frankly, I am not sure how God can get any plainer that this. If 120,000 people making a human tide across the map of Europe is not as plain as a marker in the sky, then we just do not know how to read.
Plain talk about the end of our story
You know, not only did Ninevah have to repent, but so did Jonah. He was apathetic toward the pagan world, he lacked a faith that compelled him to risk his life for his God in acts of compassion, he came up with great reasons why Ninevah didn’t deserve or warrant his attention, and he stank of fish vomit.
Is this the end? Is the world on the verge of religious war? Is the western world about to change?
I do not know. Neither do you.
But, both of us can be pretty sure that any talk that smacks of hate, any action not defined by compassion, any Facebook post meant to displace love with fear – wreaks like fish vomit.
Maybe we have missed earlier opportunities to speak peace into the Middle East, and maybe God, in his mercy, is doing a new thing for the people he loves.
Maybe, just maybe the future depends, at least a little bit, upon you, Jonah.
So, here is the plainest speech you will ever get from me.
You may not like the fact that the Middle East is moving into your neighborhood. It may scare you. It may disrupt our comfortable and safe lives.
But, God is writing this story. His way. HIs plot. His ending.
And he has been very clear about the response that his people are to have towards the foreigner. You can read it anywhere he penned his story.
The foreigner residing among you must be treated as your native-born. Love them as yourself, for you were foreigners in Egypt. I am the LORD your God.
So, People of the Book, what next?