You’ve heard about the kids in camps at the border. You’ve likely heard that the US government argued in court that it should not have to supply these kids with blankets, beds, soap, or toothbrushes.
And you’ve probably heard from someone that while this is sad we can’t do much about it because we have to “take care of our own first.”
I’m convinced this is less about helping veterans and more of an excuse to justify our apathy and/or disdain toward these kids and their families. We seem to only apply it to those fleeing north at the border and refugees from around the world.
What we mean is: These people don’t deserve our help because there are others more like us (in color, language, country of origin, culture) who deserve it based solely on their similarity to us.
Used this way, “take care of our own first” is not a Christian argument.
As Christians we are called to care for all people, regardless of their likeness to us. We are told to love our neighbor. Jesus says this is the second most important thing we can do.
When questioned about who exactly our neighbor is (so we can be sure to love only those we have to and not those other, yucky people) Jesus blows the doors wide open by including someone from a different faith and a despised country and ethnicity. Someone that good religious folk would have avoided due to their differences. Someone who doesn’t live next door or on the right side of the border and someone who doesn’t attend our community church. Someone not “our own.”
Jesus says the one we’d rather not help is indeed our own – a neighbor.
“Taking care of our own first” includes taking care of our neighbors. All 7.5 billion of them. With Jesus we don’t get to pick and chose who is our neighbor.
And there is more.
We’ve been baptized into the Church Universal. Our boundaries are far broader than national borders. We belong to a great congregation that includes every tongue and tribe and people. Many of those fleeing persecution and poverty and violence are people who also belong to this Church.
We call these people Brother and Sister. They are family. Members of the communion of saints and the great cloud of witnesses. St. Paul writes that together we are members of one body. People we say will spend all eternity with us.
No matter their legal status or language barriers, these are truly our own people.
And among them are children. There is no child on the face of the earth who does not belong to us, who is not our responsibility. Jesus doesn’t want the children hindered. He welcomes them and blesses them. Honors them.
Children are often among those considered the least of these – people who have limited power or resources – like children held in camps at no fault of there own. Jesus identifies with those who are most desperate by saying how we treat them is how we treat him. So its not just a kid who is being denied medical care or a blanket (which is shameful enough), it is Jesus too.
I see too many of us making excuses as to why we can’t or shouldn’t help. Why we shouldn’t feel bad. Why we should care for others instead because they are more like us.
The only way we can make these arguments is by viewing these people through nationalistic lenses rather than through Jesus Christ.
It is too easy to see differences in how people vote or look or believe or come from. We divide out those we like and those we don’t. Those we know and those we don’t. Those who can help us and those that can’t. Those who belong and those that don’t. Those we deem worthy and those who aren’t.
These distinctions do not exist in the Kingdom of God. Our allegiance is to something grander and more wonderful and far more transformative. We belong to a better way.
So yes, lets care for our own first. But “our own” is a lot broader than maybe we originally intended. Jesus keeps moving the lines we draw.
Young and old. Undocumented or documented. Asylum seeker or desperate nighttime crosser. They belong to us and with us. We belong to them.
We belong to a different Kingdom and a different way. Even our enemies are included.
This is how it works in our Kingdom. And as long as we have a voice and a vote I’m convinced we should be insisting that the elected officials of this nation make it a priority to treat all people from all places and all legalities with the utmost decency and care.
We can have a secure and safe border and a process for immigrating and seeking asylum. We can have laws and boundaries for the safety of everyone. And we can do those things while offering dignity and toothbrushes to anyone and everyone, including veterans and the homeless.
It is not a money issue. It is a heart issue.
If our government can’t figure out how to do it, they should move out of the way and allow humanitarian organizations to care for these precious people who are ours.
Because we take care of our own first. And you are our own. And they are our own. And those folks over there are our own. We claim veterans and the homeless and immigrants and refugees and single parents and all those other people too. We claim everybody as our own because in the Kingdom of God there is always room for more.
In the Kingdom of God no child goes without a blanket or a parent because of lines in the sand. In the Kingdom of God their pain is our pain. And their victory is our victory.
May we have hearts to know and love our neighbors. May we know and love and care for those who live down the street and around the world and in detention camps. May we see people instead of categories; the image of God instead of legal status.
May we find that taking care of our own means including more and more people. And may we find that this is the key to changing our hearts and the world.
May the Kingdom come on the southern border as it is in heaven.