I have always trusted two theological convictions to be true. The first is, “I believe that I am called to love my enemies.” And the second is like it, “I believe that I am called to welcome the stranger.”
But in recent days, my trust in those beliefs has wavered.
Admittedly, I have not always acted faithfully from those convictions. But my failure to practice them well has seldom, if ever, made me question their worth.
But now…now they were seeming misguided. Or foolish. Perhaps even dangerously so. At the very least, I was wondering whether they had become pitifully out of touch with the terror and anger that grip the world.
After all, these are real enemies God is asking me to love. And these are real strangers that God is asking me to welcome. And to do either in such a time as this was seeming…well, foolish.
Myriad voices around me seem to agree. And their voices are growing louder. In an attempt to convince me, they suggest that even considering loving enemies and welcoming strangers in our current climate is foolish, even treasonous. And they have forced me to wonder: Are they right?
Now, I wish I could place all the blame for possibly abandoning my convictions on those voices crying out to me. Or, even better, I wish I could shift the blame to my enemies or to those strangers streaming my way. But I know the truth about my struggle. It is my voice that whispers somewhere deep within me. And it sounds for all the world like the tempter’s voice from Genesis. I hear the whispered question, “Did God really say to you…love your enemy…welcome the stranger?”
And that whisper has been enough to make me question not only my convictions, but also the God who first gave them to my ancestors, who then gave them to me.
And my questioning has been going a lot like this: I believe…
…and then my litany of reasons to abandon those convictions pours quickly and easily from my lips. And my reasons seem to make perfect sense.
I believe that I am called to love my enemies, I affirm…
…I am afraid. And I am angry about the terror they are unleashing on the world. And I want justice, or, to be more accurate, revenge.
I believe that I am called to welcome the stranger, I say…
…I am afraid. And I remember stories of hospitality abused. And I want to protect myself and those I love by keeping even the possibility of threat away.
“I believe,” I begin to say…and then all of my fear and anger and vulnerability rise up, choking my voice and mocking the words that have always followed. “They are not true,” I hear my fear say to me. “Hate your enemy. And do not welcome the stranger.”
But no matter how much I tried to listen, the words just would not ring true for me.
And in that moment I discovered again what I have discovered many times before. That my fear is not to be trusted. That it gets things wrong. That it lies to justify the actions that I choose.
And I realized that I was about to discard what I believe because of what I fear, which is kind of what the terrorists want me to do.
So today I commit myself instead to dealing with what I fear, because of what I believe.