Earlier today, I placed several signs along Garfield St. and Third Ave on church property. The signs make a simple statement in three different languages (Spanish, English, and Arabic): “No matter where you are from, we’re glad you’re our neighbor.”
Given current events in our country, I acknowledge that the signs make something of a political statement. Although a full discussion of that statement would fill many pages, I offer here a brief commentary meant to accompany the signs for those express interest.
- While the signs are indeed “political” in our current context, they are in no way partisan. We are not expressing support for either Republicans or Democrats, nor for any political leader. “Politics” is most basically a matter of what is good for the “polis” (the city). Through our faith we are always pursuing the good of the city, the community in which we live, so everything we do is “political.” But we do not act in a partisan way. We are happy to support whatever party, or party leaders, join us in working for the well-being of others.
- While the signs do not reflect any official “policy” of Union Church, they are meant to publicly proclaim something that is at the heart of our faith: God loves everyone, and as followers of Jesus Christ, we are called to show God’s love to others. The statement on the signs is a simple, practically innocuous, expression of neighborliness. At most times and most places, it would probably mean little. But admittedly this is not just “most times” nor “most places.” This is here, now. If the signs seem somehow more poignant, or even controversial, here and now, then I hope that will prompt reflection about the current climate in our society regarding the diverse makeup of our communities.
- “Neighbor” is an important word in the Bible and in our faith, and we do not use the word lightly. The Gospel of Mark (12:28-30) says:
And one of the scribes came up and heard them disputing with one another, and seeing that Jesus answered them well, the scribe asked Jesus, “Which commandment is the most important of all?” 29 Jesus answered, “The most important is, ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. 30 And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ 31 The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.”
These signs express our intent to follow this commandment. Again, if that seems somehow poignant, or even controversial, here and now, then I hope that will prompt reflection about the current climate in our society around how we view our neighbors.
- To the extent that these signs tie in to current issues surrounding refugees and immigrants, I would simply note that extending a just welcome to “aliens” is an extremely common and core commitment of Biblical ethics. Among many passages: “When an alien resides with you in your land, you shall not oppress the alien” (Leviticus 19:33), and “You shall have one law for the alien and for the citizen: for I am the Lord your God.” The Biblical law does not apply directly to the United States, but it does apply directly to Christians who happen to live in the United States.
- Our church does not have any policy on how to make the decision about publicly posting signs/messages such as these. As the Sr. Pastor, our church constitution gives me the duty to “promote the spiritual welfare of this church and persons served by it,” and I propose that these signs are an attempt to fulfill that duty. In our current cultural and political context I believe it is a matter of the spiritual welfare of the church to proclaim our welcome of our neighbors.
If you have any further questions or comments, or would simply like to have more discussion, please contact me at 630.590.6695, or firstname.lastname@example.org.