By York Moore
In the same way that ‘life’ was a battlefield concept in the so-called culture wars in the past several decades, the concept of ‘love’ is now. There is no single more fought-over concept in Western culture than love.
What is love? Who gets to love who? What is the extent of love? Should love be sanctioned or controlled politically? These are the questions of our day.
The Bible tells us, “Owe no one anything, except to love one another; for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law” (Rom. 13:8). The reality is that there is no such thing as a ‘culture war’ detached from real consequences in the lives of women, men, and children created in the image of God. Every embattled concept from life to love has multi-dimensional consequences for individuals and society.
Cornelius Plantinga reminds us that “…the world is not the way it is supposed to be.” Often, this means seemingly simple and ‘right’ decisions around law, national boarders, debt, and/or citizenship entitlement are actually embroiled in a litany of corollary concepts for Christians. For instance, as Christians, we are not permitted to answer questions about law without ideas like forgiveness, redemption, and restoration coming into play. We are not permitted as Christians to speak to issues of national citizenship and immigration without also addressing ideas like adoption and widow/orphan care. Ethical issues for Christians are actually quite complex because we have this persistent kingdom economy always getting in the way.
As I write these words, I am staring at the picture of a lifeless boy named Aylan. Aylan is a victim of multiple things. He is the victim of the 2500-mile trek Syrians are making to what they hope to be a fresh start on life in Germany. He is a victim of the destabilizing forces of his homeland. He is a victim of the sin and decisions of others. Syrians are fleeing near-certain death, the rape and forced prostitution of their sisters, mothers, and daughters, and likely generations of oppression and poverty.
There isn’t a mother or father on earth who wouldn’t risk it all to give their children a chance to avoid such realities—even if that risk involved possibly dying along the way. As I stare at Aylan’s body, I’m reminded of Paul’s words, “Owe no one anything, except to love one another.” Whatever we decide love is or isn’t or who is or isn’t entitled to it, one thing we can all agree on is that we owe a debt to Aylan—the debt of love. Aylan and the hundreds of thousands like him who are fleeing the Middle East and Africa are owed something by Christians in the West, they are owed our love.
Aylan’s lifeless body has become a symbol of failed humanitarianism—a fancy word for love in action. In America, we’ve had a long and storied journey with immigration. Along the way, we too have our symbols of failed humanitarianism and the issue of immigration has become incredibly complex (or simple depending on your social or political ideology).
It is unfortunate how few Christians permit the values of our kingdom economy to drive their interpretation of political and social realities. I keep going back to Aylan’s lifeless body. What were his hopes and dreams? What did he get for his last birthday and what was his favorite subject in school? Did he and his dad have a favorite after-dinner game they liked to play? We are called to love the ‘stranger in our midst,’ to ‘care for the foreigner,’ and particularly to provide for widows and orphans—after all, this is true religion, right?
What is unfolding in Europe through the massive displacement of peoples is historic—it is on the level of the hordes who came to America from Europe, arriving at Ellis Island to begin a new life in a new land. While we do not know how things will ultimately change, we know that the European landscape will never be the same. Like New York, there will likely be ethnic and religiously defined boroughs, certain career paths associated with minorities, and skirmishes over property, jobs, and schools. All these are the growth pangs of societal evolution. Click here to read more Debt of Love