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I am Joe. Born to Texans in Mississippi, I've spent the majority of my life on the Gulf Coast, somewhere between New Orleans and Mobile.

I started blogging in 2004 as a way to document my seminary experience in New Orleans. Now I write about faith, education, politics, and their convergence in our lives. My wife and I are walking through the adoption process, so that’s bound to come up, too.

An Unending Struggle of the Spirit

An Unending Struggle of the Spirit

Tension is thick amongst us. Blood flows through Paris and Beirut. Rivers of blood rush through Syria and Iraq. Daesh (Islamic State) unleashes torrents of destruction and desecration from Syria to Iraq. Terrorism. Tactical assaults. Beheadings. Plane bombs. Crucifixions. Genocide.

We react. Our grief transforms into fear. Then anger - which consumes us - birthing hate. Compassion subsides. Raw emotion blinds reason. Innocent and guilty are muddled.

As the stream of blood pours through our streets, refugees pour out of Syria. The world's largest humanitarian crisis grows. A streaming tide of refugees flood toward Europe, then America, pleading asylum. Fear of the unknown grips our hearts. They arrive on our doorstep. Our chests tighten. We grow cold. Our backs turn.

They shouldn't.

Then Jesus told his disciples, "If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what shall a man give in return for his soul? For the Son of Man is going to come with his angels in the glory of his Father, and then he will repay each person according to what he has done." - [Matthew 16:24-27, ESV]

"Our families are here. What if terrorists hide among the refugees? What if we let the terrorists into our cities and they attack?"

They could come either way. It's happened before. It will happen again.

Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends. - [John 15:13, ESV]

"I'm responsible for my family, and I can't invite them into danger. I would gladly lay down my own life for my friends, but wouldn't willingly lay down the lives of my children for my friends."

It's hard, isn't it?

“When all is said and done, the life of faith is nothing if not an unending struggle of the spirit with every available weapon against the flesh” (Dietrich Bonhoeffer, The Cost of Discipleship).

I don't know who will read this post. If you're a Christian and you stumble upon this, I want to encourage you to follow Jesus. God implores his followers throughout the Scriptures, "Do not fear," and we should not. Fear is so pervasive in our culture today. We fear our way of life - our values, our politics, our kingdom - will be compromised by something different. I beg of you - do not fear. Follow Jesus. Show compassion to refugees.

When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne. ... Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. 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 25:31, 34-46, ESV]

There will come a time again when tragedy strikes us deeply. American blood will be shed, either by foreign or domestic terrorists. If not by Daesh, then by a lone gunman, by street gangs, or an angry neighbor. We will mourn. And we must overcome our fear, crush the spirit of hate, and remember compassion.

“The will of God, to which the law gives expression, is that men should defeat their enemies by loving them" (Bonhoeffer, The Cost of Discipleship).

What if our compassion for Syrian refugees prevented another generation of radicalized Islamists?

Please take the time to read two other posts:

Alan Cross: Considering the Facts, A Christian Response From Alabama to the Syrian Refugee Crisis
Marty Duren: The Good Samaritan, A Retelling

Citizens of the Kingdom

Citizens of the Kingdom