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Teslas and Refugees

The Lord defends the rights of the orphans and widows.

He cares for foreigners and gives them food and clothing.

And you should care also for them because you were foreigners in Egypt.

Deuteronomy 10:18-19

Whenever a Tesla passes me on the road (which can be often in Northern Virginia), a twinge of automobile jealousy courses through my veins. Though I am impressed by the sleek design, what I really covet is a car that can go from zero to 60 mph in three seconds without making much noise. I like quiet speed.

But I drive a 2013 Buick Encore, which I bought off the dealer’s lot just as the 2015 models were rolling in. My car wasn’t previously owned, but it wasn’t exactly new either. On the plus side, it offers a smooth ride and gets good gas mileage. In addition, I feel fully protected in accidents, of which I’ve had two. Once I was rear-ended by a drunk driver, and another time I drove straight into the side of a van when it pulled in front of me attempting to go the wrong way down a one-way street. Both times I walked away with no injuries. It’s a good car … but it’s not a Tesla.

Proverbs 27:20 says, “Just as death and destruction is never satisfied, so human desire is never satisfied.” Obviously, my desire for a fancier car with more bells and whistles is not necessarily the result of good advertising or American norms but rather an ingrained behavior that crosses cultures and generations. It’s normal for me to want more. Isn't it?

I’ve been following the plight of the Afghans. (It’s hard not to!) At the time of this writing, more than 60,000 have been evacuated from their homeland, and about a third of that number are being processed for resettlement in the U.S. Many of them arrived in this country with just the clothes on their backs, having not eaten for several days; some were shoeless.

I am reminded of an earlier time in our country’s history when Vietnamese refugees were offered asylum following the fall of Saigon in 1975. I was in middle school, and no refugees were relocated to my small farming community in upstate New York, so the news didn’t mean much to me, and my parents barely discussed it. But this time around, I am experiencing angst and heartbreak over the refugee situation—not only for the Afghans, but for the oppressed everywhere. Many of us are aware of the religious persecution and political repression in China, Iran, Syria, and North Korea because these countries are highlighted in the news media, just like Afghanistan. But I have since come to learn of many more countries whose citizens do not enjoy basic human rights, countries like Azerbaijan, Equatorial Guinea, Eritrea, Laos, South Sudan, and Yemen.

It’s easy to overlook the struggles afflicting our foreign brothers and sisters that occur on lands thousands of miles away. It’s easy to turn a blind eye to the unfilled basic needs of poor children living on other continents. It’s easy to ignore the plight of widows in third-world countries who are left destitute when their spouse dies. These things happen in other people’s backyards, not ours. We are far away and under no obligation to get involved.

But the crisis in Afghanistan, which is all over the news, is shining a light on the horrors of the Taliban and militaristic control from which we cannot escape. It is no longer possible to turn a blind eye. I weep knowing of the retribution that awaits dissidents, and I grieve for the families that will be traumatized for generations to come. I don’t know if I will have the privilege of personally helping an Afghan refugee, but I am preparing my heart for the possibility. As the apostle James so elegantly wrote, Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world. (1:27)

The world tells me I need a new car—something newer with less miles. I could also use a new washing machine and a few new pairs of shoes. But do I need any of this? No. I do not.

What God tells me I need is to look after orphans and widows, to pursue righteousness, and to protect the persecuted. He says, Learn to do right; seek justice. Defend the oppressed. Take up the cause of the fatherless; plead the case of the widow. (Isaiah 1:17)

Friends, our neighbors around the world are in crisis, and they need us. I don’t know what that looks like for you; but I am exploring several national and local efforts. [Ways to help Afghan refugees arriving in the U.S. posted by] Will you consider joining me?

Weep. Grieve. Pray. Turn my heart toward your statutes and not toward selfish gain. Turn my eyes away from worthless things; preserve my life according to your word. (Psalm 119:36-37)

THE SONG THAT COMES TO MIND IS Nothing/Something by Pat Barrett and Dante Bowe.

Lyrics: “If I can’t love my neighbor like I love myself, if I won’t move when my brother cries out for help … At best it all means nothing.”

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