Saturday, 29 October 2016

Blessed are the (poor) refugees Luke 6:20-31

Jesus is turning things upside down.

In ancient Israel the commonly held belief was that if you had something wrong with you, if you were blind or crippled or leprous, then somehow you deserved it. If you were poor, destitute or starving, then somehow you deserved it. You or perhaps your forebears were sinful and this is both the result and the confirmation of your wrongness. Of course this was a convenient idea for the complacent, rich, well fed and happy.

The shock then of “Blessed are you who are poor” would on its own be considerable. And to follow it up with “for yours is the kingdom of God” overturns doubly the prevailing opinion:

“How so?” says the rich person, “I am rich, I am blessed; see, God is showering his favour upon me and the kingdom of God is surely mine.”

Jesus speaks against this self fulfilling idea and is speaking of both the future kingdom of heaven and now. In the future kingdom the poor, hungry and broken will be blessed for as Jesus tells us over and over again the kingdom of heaven is open to all. But now those who are better off face a challenge firstly to accept this paradox, that the kingdom is open to all – and then to understand that their way into the kingdom is to work to bring about compassion and love now in thier time.

- Love your enemies
- Do good (even) to those who hate you
- Pray for those who abuse you
- Give to everyone who begs from you.

I wonder if, when we think about the refugees, the rich countries have somewhere in their corporate or governmental subconscious that ancient idea that those who have fled terrible conditions, including war, persecution, starvation and death are somehow responsible for some of it. 

“Why didn’t they stay on the other side of the Mediterranean? Why did their government behave so badly? Are we not baling them out at both ends with money to the camps and now do we have to take them in as well? “

Jesus though does not argue in our ways. He sees the poor, starving homeless refugee and he sees a soul, whose place is in heaven. He does not see a man, woman or child who might perhaps be a threat or a burden, he sees a soul who is blessed.

He tells the rich, the well fed, the amused and the laughing ones to see the refugees with his eyes and if we could we would love them and give them all we can.