Thursday, December 24, 2015

From One Know-Nothing to Another

The Know-Nothing Party Flag

Dennis Gorecki of Orland Park, IL wrote a letter which was published in the Christmas Eve edition of the Daily Southtown newspaper (a Chicago Tribune publication). In his letter, which lists the collective sin of American racism like a litany – or an indictment – Mr. Gorecki’s calls for his “Christian brothers and sisters who support the xenophobic views of the Republican party,” to read Matthew 25:35-46. Those verses read as follows:

“For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’ Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not clothe me, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.’ Then they also will answer, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to you?’ Then he will answer them, saying, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.’ And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life” (Matthew 25:35-46).

He calls the Republican Party the new Know-nothings which, in many respects, is an accurate statement. The average American’s concern for the security of their country and its borders, however, does not automatically equate with xenophobia, as many leftists believe and proclaim. By citing St. Matthew’s Gospel, this implication is made all the more insulting, as Christians are painted to look like hypocritical racists. This view of Christians may fit well with the Left’s worldview, but it has little to do with reality for the majority of the faithful. Furthermore, Mr. Gorecki’s invocation of Matthew 25:35-46 as his coup de grâce betrays his ignorance of Biblical interpretation.

Christ, telling this parable of the sheep and the goats to his disciples, says, “Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me” (Matthew 25:40). Who are Jesus’ brothers? His disciples! We learn this in Matthew 12:

“While he was still speaking to the people, behold, his mother and his brothers stood outside, asking to speak to him. But he replied to the man who told him, ‘Who is my mother, and who are my brothers?’ And stretching out his hand toward his disciples, he said, ‘Here are my mother and my brothers! For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother’ (Matthew 12:46-50).

Again, who are those, according to Jesus, who do the will of His Father in heaven? Those who believe in him, or…His disciples! We learn this in John 6:

“Then they said to him, ‘What must we do, to be doing the works of God?’ Jesus answered them, ‘This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent’” (John 6:28-29).

So, who is Jesus calling us to feed, give drink, clothe, and visit in prison in this parable? His brothers, those who believe in him…our fellow Christians. To say that this parable mandates that Christians welcome everyone who calls themselves a refugee into their country without a second thought or question, is to profoundly misinterpret Jesus’ words here.

Certainly this is not the only sense in which the phrase “my brothers” should be understood. Since we have been adopted into God’s family, we Christians are children of God the Father, brothers and sisters of Christ, and co-heirs with Him of His Kingdom. 

This is not to say that Christians are allowed to treat those outside the family of faith badly. To the contrary, Christians are called to love their enemies, a feature of the Christian religion not universally shared by the world’s religions. We are called to pray for those who persecute us, and to live in peace with everyone, insofar as it depends on us.

Christians expressing concern about the effects and dangers of unchecked illegal immigration does not equate with the “No Irish Need Apply” attitude of the late 19th and early 20th Centuries. Supporting tighter control of the way visas are issued, or not wanting to allow tens of thousands of Muslim refugees into the country without a proper vetting when Islamic terrorists are threatening kill Americans on American soil does not equate with the exclusion of Chinese immigrants, or with any of the other incidents of racism and xenophobia which Mr. Gorecki cites. And, while there are certainly a large number of people in America who are the type of bigot Mr. Gorecki describes, this in no way negates the founding principles of our country, or the picture of America as the land of opportunity for oppressed immigrants around the world. 

Things like racism exist because human beings are sinful. Our natures are corrupt. In our natural state, we are God’s enemy. Our focus is bent inward toward ourselves. As a result, we don’t love God with our whole hearts, and we don’t love our neighbors as ourselves. For this we need to repent. We need to hear God’s forgiveness this Christmas – and every day of the year – that, despite our sinfulness we do not need to fear; that unto us is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. This Savior is Immanuel, God with us, who came to bear our sin on the cross while we were still his enemies. Repentance and the forgiveness of sins through Christ’s blood, shed on the cross, is the only thing which will cause us to act according to the Spirit rather than according to our sinful flesh.