“But Abraham said, ‘Child, remember that during your lifetime you received your good things, and Lazarus in like manner evil things; but now he is comforted here, and you are in agony. Besides all this, between you and us a great chasm has been fixed, so that those who might want to pass from here to you cannot do so, and no one can cross from there to us.’” Luke 16:25
Good things. I give God thanks that I have access to so many of the world’s good things. To be clear, I do not feast sumptuously every day. And my attire is far from whatever might be the equivalent of fine linen and purple robes. But I live in one of the largest gated communities in the world, one that affords me a quality of life that is the envy of people everywhere. It is not just the easy access to material things that makes life so comfortable for many of us. But it is also those collective intangibles that are easily overlooked, such as a functioning and stable democracy, respect for the rule of law, and a police force dedicated to promoting public safety. They are all a part of the good things.
It is little wonder then that thousands of people show up at our gates each year, hoping to cross over the great chasm of poverty, violence and instability that separate them from us. I was part of the leadership team commissioned to travel to the southern border to be the “eyes and ears” of the presbytery as we think about how God might want us to respond to the crisis on our border. In a social and political climate where it is all too easy to dehumanize one another, seeing and acknowledging the humanity of the people who show up at our border is a necessary first step. As we listened to the stories of those fleeing gang violence, war, and political and social instability, I couldn’t help but be grateful I was born on the right side of the border. The side with all the good things.
What worries me is that God seems to have a preferential option for people who are lacking in so many ways. In our text from Luke’s gospel, Jesus tells the parable of the great reversal indicating that those of us who experience so much of the world’s good things, while ignoring the needs of our neighbors, will experience agony and torment in the next world. And those who experience the deprivations and hardships of life now, will find in the next life, comfort. I do not believe the point of the parable is to tell us anything about heaven, hell, or how we might end up in either one of those destinations after we die. I think the point of the parable is to give us a vision of the kind of world we ought to be striving for in this life.
I am still processing a lot of what I have seen and heard at the border, and certainly do not profess to have any easy answers to the crisis at our border. I also do not believe that hardening our borders and ignoring the plight of those seeking asylum, is a viable long-term option. I believe what God wants most from us, is to work diligently, to create the kind of world, where all of us can enjoy the good things. My prayer is for our individual and collective churches to continue to work towards that kind of world together.