Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Trusting God

Let each of you not look to your own interests, but to the interests of others.  Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited, but emptied himself...  -- Philippians 2:4-7a

In the last week or so, I have been thinking a lot about the Arizona-Mexico border.  Primarily this is because our church youth group is planning a weekend retreat in a couple of months which will focus on this issue.  We plan to join with the youth of another church in town and learn about the border -- in particular, the issue of illegal immigration.  We will travel to Nogales, Arizona to meet with folks from the Kino Border Initiative who provide food and shelter for those who have been deported back to Mexico, or who are not allowed to return to the States.  And we will cross the border into Nogales, Sonora to help at the KBI soup kitchen and women's shelter.  It is an opportunity for us to put a human face to the border problem.  

What is the border problem?  Well, many people in Mexico do not have enough resources (work, money, food) to support themselves and their families, so they try to find these things in the United States.  Legal immigration from Mexico to the States can take years.  So, in desperation, they cross the border illegally, hoping to find work and send money back to their family in Mexico.  Why do we not just let them come?  Because we are worried that our nation (in particular, our State) cannot support them.  These illegal immigrants would take our jobs, our income, our resources, and there wouldn't be enough to go around for all those who are supposed to be here.  After all, why do we have borders in the first place?  Borders mark the boundaries between nations.  And the primary purpose of a nation is to protect and care for its own people, not those outside its domain.

In my readings this week, I came across a book written shortly after World War II, which shed some additional light on this issue.  Emery Reeves in "The Anatomy of Peace" argues that much of the suffering in the world (war, oppression, genocide, etc.) is the result of the inevitable development of nation-states.  Nation-states, such as England, France, and Germany, seeing themselves as single units in close proximity to other sovereign units, built protective walls around themselves and distrusted most those nation-states who were their nearest neighbors.  Because of this underlying feeling of distrust between separate nation-states, it was impossible to create lasting peace.  Thus, the two world wars. Reeves argues that for lasting peace to occur, nation-states have to look beyond themselves, see all people as equal before God, and establish international laws to ensure peace.  His book had a significant impact on the political scene of that era.  

As I read his book, I was reminded of our own Declaration of Independence, which states:  We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

When our founding fathers affirmed these statements, they affirmed them for all people under God, not just for themselves, or for the people living in the thirteen colonies.  All men are equal in the eyes of God and have the right to live, in freedom, and pursue their own happiness.  The people of Mexico have these rights just as much as the people of the United States.  But, true freedom has one caveat:  the rights of one man or woman cannot infringe upon the rights of another.   One person's search for that which will sustain his life or the lives of his loved ones cannot be allowed to prevent someone else from pursuing the same thing for himself or his loved ones.  Which is why we have such a dilemma.  Whose rights in this situation carry more weight?

Some people would say that the law is inviolate, and since the law is being broken, there really is nothing to discuss.  Others would argue that it is really a humanitarian issue:  people are starving, in desperate need of work and immediate sustenance.  It is the classic question that goes back to the times of Jesus (if not before).  Then it was phrased by those in authority, Is it right to heal on the Sabbath?   We know how Jesus answered that question.

In my last few postings, I have been learning about my ego and its ability to get in the way of helping others and following God's will.  My instincts for self-aggrandizement, self-centredness, and self-protection are very strong.  But recognizing when I am putting myself first, helps me evaluate how appropriate this actually is.  Sometimes -- I would even say most of the time -- it is better if I do not put myself first, but instead put someone else, someone whose needs are greater than mine, in that position.  Now, as I think about the border problem, I see that the thing that causes suffering on a small scale in my own life -- my ego -- is the same thing that causes suffering on a large scale.  Many of the causes of suffering around the world, as Reeves states, though somewhat differently, are caused by one group of people having an overpowering collective ego.  Just as I say, "What about me and my needs and desires?" these groups say, "What about us and our desires and needs?"

And just as the solution to my problem is to let go of my ego, to die to that way of self-centered and self-protective thinking, so too the solution to large scale problems of human suffering is the same.  The group must let go of its collective ego -- die, in effect, or be willing to lose something -- in order to gain something even more precious:  to ability to help those in greater need.  As I've written before, learning to let go our self-protective egos is not an easy thing.  It requires that we put our complete trust in God to know what is best for us.  As Jesus did.

In order for a nation like The United States to let go of its collective, self-protective, ego, we too must do the same.  "In God We Trust" might then become a true statement.

Dear God, I value the trust you place in me.  May I never forsake that trust.  Love always, Pam


Ashley Shell said...

Wow. What a great post! Your words really opened up my eyes a bit. I think instead of having a self centered ego (at least for me) it is more of a fear for my family and our needs. A fear of if I give a little or help out, will my family be able to still have our needs met?

I think that maybe if our nation could maybe meet somewhere in the middle (easier said than done) with this issue of illegal immigration, than maybe things might be better for all. I mean, after all, it could just as well be us on the other side of the border, struggling to survive.

Pamela Keane said...

Thanks, Ashley, for your comment. Yes, putting ourselves in the shoes of other people (in this case, across the border) is really the first step in understanding both sides of the issue. Blessings, Pam