This past week, the picture of a little Syrian boy scandalized the world. Aylan Kurdi, 2 years old, had been fleeing with his family from the violence in Syria to refuge in Europe. His little body, washed ashore on the Turkish beach, carried the tragedy of an entire people.
His story reminded me of another little boy, whose family fled the violence and death in their homeland. His parents were a young couple, ordinary working class folk, who simply wanted to live in peace. But their country was ruled by a capricious leader, bent on the annihilation of an entire generation, and they escaped to a foreign land. This story, of course, is that of Jesus, whose family escaped to Egypt when King Herod massacred all the young boys of Israel.
The story of the migrants in Europe is long and complex. One aspect that stood out to me was the comments of Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán. In closing off his country to the migrants, Orbán declared that it was to hold off the hordes who would threaten Europe’s Christian identity.
I don’t know much about Hungarian history or European Christian identity. I do know that the word “Christian” means “little Christ.” Those who call themselves Christians follow the life and example of Jesus the Christ.
If Jesus were in Europe, would he have embraced the migrants coming to his home? Would he have welcomed them into the safety and comfort of his life? I submit that he would have not. He would have not. He would not stop at that act because his love was not so limited.
Jesus, who came from heaven to a violent and hostile world, who lived amongst the poor and the outcast, whose love was so expansive that he allowed his body to be broken for those he loved, who looked on his murderers and asked that they be forgiven…This Jesus would not be content to live in comfort and safety. He would have gone to the war, to Syria and Iraq, to comfort and love the people there.
We can talk at length about Christian identity, about worldview and lineage and history. But let us Christians bear well in mind that Jesus is the model for how we ought to live. Would we be willing to go to Syria and Iraq, to the violence and chaos and madness, because we know God loves the people there and has called us to be an embodiment of that love? I know that I would have great difficulty in doing so…But God’s grace is greater. I pray and ask that the God, who is love incarnate, would continue to expand my feeble heart and to teach me to love. And that God be present to love those caught in this tragedy.