“You don’t lock your doors because you hate the people outside, you lock your doors because you love the people inside.”
So goes a statement by conservative firebrand Tomi Lahren in her recent monologue concerning the U.S. President Donald Trump’s executive order to temporarily ban immigration from terrorist hotspots. It was also quoted by, of all people, the ex-president’s brother, Malik Obama – who is now a vocal supporter of Trump.
And this quote rings true, doesn’t it? I’ve even read comments by a liberal conceding that fact. The reason it rings true is that it’s very easy idea to relate to. If you are the head of the house, and someone repeatedly breaks in and steals from you, would you continue to leave your door wide open at night? (rhetorical question)
Jesus backs this thinking in Matt 24:43:
“But know this, that if the master of the house had known what hour the thief would come, he would have watched and not allowed his house to be broken into.”
He draws from this example because it is (or used to be) common sense. And since we do know one of the main ways the thieves are entering the U.S., a responsible and caring president must be vigilant. If we love those with whom we live, we will take the necessary measures to protect them. This is not racism, bigotry, or heartlessness. In fact, fundamentally it is not about those outside at all. It is about true love for your family.
And it is this kind of love for those nearest to us that has been under fire for decades now.
One clear example is the increasing intent to appease, and even celebrate, minorities. Whatever ‘marginalized’ group you want to focus on (though interestingly Christians and Jews appear exempt), the result of that thinking is to undermine and exclude the majority and therefore put fissures in the bedrock of society.
And I have seen it in the church – it’s in the seeker-friendly movement; it’s in the watering down of the true gospel; it’s in the gimmicks that so many attractional churches use to keep their pews warm. It’s the same spirit, the spirit of this age.
It all has to do with focusing your energies and efforts on the extremities and beyond at the expense of those nearest and dearest whom the Lord had entrusted to your care. And the basic idea is understandable: Assume those who are regular at church are converted, then since our task is apparently just to make converts, then we just need to look to the borders, those on the fringe. That’s the Lord’s work!
This has two main worldly benefits:
1) It grows your gathering more quickly (which means more money!)
2) It garners praise because it shows you’re unselfish, thinking of others, sacrificial, and loving.
No! Not if it’s God’s praise you seek.
By focusing all our energies on the extremities we forget the main duty we have as shepherds (and we are all shepherds in some way if we have others we’re responsible for – church, family, work…), and that is to shepherd the sheep. To take responsibility for their welfare, to never leave them, to provide for their needs, to bind up their wounds, discipline them, lead them in the right direction, and, the one relevant to our discussion now, guard them from harm (this list all comes from Psalm 23 – check it out!)
This is what requires hard work and true love. Sure it’s a thankless task at times, any pastor can attest to that; but that’s the price of love, a price no one but Jesus himself truly understands.
Ignoring the flock under your care just to appear to be loving to those outside is dereliction of duty, and a denial of the One who established you in that position. In a church setting, that can manifest itself in watering down the gospel, too often until it is either another gospel (note the warning of Galatians 1:8), or no gospel at all.
But you can’t grow a tree just by stroking the leaves.
You need a healthy trunk and branches or the leaves will have nothing to attach to anyway. Instead we must continually feed and weed and tend and love. To switch the metaphor, the sheep in your care need your shepherding, and it’s the healthy flock that multiplies.
Make America great again? A worthy goal indeed, and President Trump may or may not get there. But it’s these kinds of changes in immigration policy even in his short time in office that are consistent with biblical principles, not those of his predecessor. The fruit picked from that guy’s tree is good compost – that’s the nicest way to put it.
The love you have for those under your wing will be seen in the fruit that they bear. Look what Jesus says about this in John 15:7-14, and the fundamental union of love and fruit-bearing:
“If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, you will ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you. By this My Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit; so you will be My disciples.
As the Father loved Me, I also have loved you; abide in My love. If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love, just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and abide in His love.
These things I have spoken to you, that My joy may remain in you, and that your joy may be full. This is My commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.
Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends. You are My friends if you do whatever I command you.”
So, love the people inside and outside, Jesus said that (Matthew 5:44) – but it’s the people inside that you are answerable for. Be the shepherd God calls you to be.
Grace and peace to you all.