You shall love the stranger.

“Is not this the fast that I choose: to loose the bonds of injustice, to undo the thongs of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free, and to break every yoke?” – Isaiah 58:6

“You shall also love the stranger, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt.” – Deut. 10:19

 

Throughout history, diverse people of faith have participated in the spiritual discipline of fasting.  The intentional practice of limiting consumption, most often of food and drink, but sometimes also commercial products or personal habits, follows a long tradition: Moses fasted.  David fasted.  So did Jesus.  Indeed, Gandhi, 20th century suffragists, and political prisoners of many nations have fasted to bring attention to injustice.

 

The Bible recounts the practice of fasting throughout the Old and New Testaments, including for the purpose of averting God’s judgment, to focus the mind and heart on the will of God, and to prepare for times of trial or great spiritual challenge.  We know that our own country is in the midst of one of those times of challenge – we are faced with the fact that the American dream of equality, freedom, access to clean water, healthcare, and safe employment with living wages is far out of reach for many.  Like the Israelites, most of us, too, began as sojourners in this land.  Yet our immigrant brothers and sisters find little hospitality.  “You shall also love the stranger,” says the Lord. 

 

I’m a United Methodist, and our denomination has a special tradition of caring for the poor and of connecting such acts of mercy and justice to our spiritual practice.  John Wesley, the founder of our denomination, taught  that there are three simple rules for the life of faith: to do no harm, to do goodness, and to stay in love with God.  As Micah said: loving justice, doing kindness, walking humbly with our God. 

 

Beginning in the middle of October until the 2008 election, a collection of immigrants, movement leaders, day laborers, people of faith both lay and clergy, student leaders, grassroots organizers, musicians and artists, and people of conscience will rise out of fear and begin one of the largest hunger strikes in American history.  For the Christians participating in this intentional fast, we hope that our shared sacrifice and commitment to the Immigrant Rights Movement will bring attention to the ways in which our communities and government have neglected to provide reasonable care for the least, last, and lost of our society.  By joining the Fast for Our Future, whether for a meal, a day, or a week, we will repent of the personal and systemic choices we have made to oppress immigrants, following the rule to “do no harm.”  We will reflect during this time on better, more compassionate ways to love strangers in our midst, practicing acts of goodness.  We will witness to the power of the Living God amongst those without resources and without voices, sharing and experiencing the power of God’s love.  This is the fast that we choose. 

 

In fact, it’s the fast I’ve chosen.  You may have read my earlier post about poverty – as I was wondering what ways I could practically live out this sense of needing to make an intentional choice in my own life to do less harm, to do good, to undertake the eternal and difficult task of staying in love with this God I worship, I ran across (was given?) this opportunity to act out my faith and my convictions by taking part in the Fast for Our Future.  So, I’ll be fasting on Nov. 2 and 3 as a part of this movement.  My hope and plan is to spend the time during those two days praying for our nation’s leaders, elected and unelected, visible or quietly working behind the scenes.  I’ll pray for them to act with conscience and clarity, compassion and courage.  I’ll pray for them to sense their calling to the broken places in our society.  Most of all, I’ll pray that they will speak with and for the poor.  As a part of that prayer, I’ll write letters to my legislators outlining for them why I believe immigrants deserve the same rights to life that I enjoy by the sheer privilege of having been born where and who I was.  I won’t joke – this will be hard work.  I don’t naturally give up food (who does voluntarily?) and I certainly will struggle to keep my mind and heart focused on these goals.  But I truly believe that when people turn their faces to God, no matter what they understand as “divine,” the world changes. 

 

 

I rather hope you’ll join me, whether by fasting from food or by fasting from the distractions of the every day to spend time thinking about, praying for, or working toward reform for immigration.   

http://www.therisemovement.org/home.html

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2 Comments »

  1. Steph Said:

    Jules,

    How interesting that you wrote this blog, as I just read something a couple of days ago about the calling of Christians to love strangers in their own land. Interesting, isn’t it, how some Christians gloss over certain things that aren’t convenient or don’t fit in some ways into their lives, even if the Bible has commanded it? Protecting the earth that God gave us comes to mind as well…

    I will join you in your fast in the hopes that Christians will learn to truly love our neighbors as ourselves.

    Steph

  2. honeywasp Said:

    Steph,
    I think it’s interesting you brought that up – caring for Creation seems like an obvious commandment, to me… and yet I’ve heard people argue (and I mean in person, not on the Crazy Christian Channel) that the destruction of the earth through global warming, etc. is actually something we should be thankful for because it indicates the second coming (or whatever). The same folks also said that it is not our responsibility to care for the earth because we would be preventing this from happening. While I absolutely think this is nuts (what happened to stewardship, valuing life over personal gain, etc.?), I think it’s interesting – after all, they’re using scripture, as well, and believe they are reading it rightly and deeply.
    I think it’s fascinating that we each have a “canon within the canon,” things we look to as holding the central, most authoritative core message, and then we go back to those time after time without attempting to reconcile them with other, possibly contradictory or challenging texts. I know I do it – 1 John is my “go to” text. So’s Isaiah. I rarely visit Leviticus, but I love Genesis.
    It’s true outside of scripture, too – I’m thinking of the news media I choose to trust over those I don’t. We all gloss over certain things that aren’t convenient, I think. Your comment challenges me to think about how I do this, too.
    Peace, kiddo – thanks for joining me on the fast.
    Jules


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