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It was a cold January day in 1985. I was at the end of a journey: a journey where I was fleeing the reign and rule of a tyrannical king. I knew I had to do something — I did not want to live one more day, one more moment under his rule. There was no future in it for me, no hope, no joy, no purpose, nothing. I longed to be a citizen in a different kingdom, with a Better King. So, it was on January 21, 1985 that I made my way to the gates of that better kingdom — I cried out to the King, “Have mercy on me! Let me in!” And the gates swung open. With tears flowing, I crossed over, and I’ve been a Kingdom citizen ever since.
The tyrant-king I was fleeing was myself. The Better King was Jesus. I am now a citizen of the Kingdom of God! By His loving-kindness, the Lord sought me out and drew me to Himself. I crossed over what could only be described as a Gateway of Grace and entered in. I didn’t deserve it then and still don’t today. But my citizenship is changed: I am now and forever under the reign and rule of King Jesus. Thanks be to God, He didn’t use extreme vetting. Thanks be to God, He didn’t make me wait. Thanks be to God, I didn’t have to pass a test. He let me in. He had mercy on me, a young spiritual refugee seeking a new kingdom. I came to Him and the gates opened.
I am enormously tired of the polarization in our country and our repeated willingness to allow politicians and commentators to divide us. I am deeply disappointed in the part of the church that is cloaking racism, religious intolerance and American exceptionalism in its evangelistic theology, and I am weary of other parts of the church that, perched from their positions of education and privilege, write statements, flood Twitter with snark, and self-righteously instruct me on “what I should be preaching this Sunday”.
It hurts my heart to watch members of my congregation duke it out in comment sections on Facebook. I understand that political discourse is healthy, but it stresses me out! In all of this, we are forgetting that we are all of us refugees. We are not children of God by birth or by right. We got in because King Jesus has had mercy on us and let us in.
So I pray for support and encourage our nation’s response to the refugee crisis, not just because of what the Scriptures say or because someone thinks I should, but because I remember what it was like to be a refugee myself. While we are a million miles apart in how we’ve suffered, I can look upon that Syrian mother, than Iranian man and that Sudanese child and see someone like myself back on January 21, 1985. They have showed up, fleeing tyranny, and are asking to be let in. Like Jesus met me with mercy, I want to do that for them.
Let’s soften the edges. Look upon your fellow refugees with love and not judgment, especially the ones with whom you disagree. All of us count. All of us are the beloved of God. And, if you have never walked over that Gateway of Grace, if you are still cruelly reigning as King of your life (aren’t you tired?), if you are ready to be a citizen in the Kingdom of God, right where you are, ask for a change, cry out for mercy and bow your heart to the Better King. Jesus will let you in.