Love one another as I have loved you

by Alan Rudge, Reader

I recently came across a copy of The Economist Magazine which some of you may have also seen. The front cover was very striking. There was a picture of people walking along a barren stretch of countryside and on top was the caption, ‘The Exodus’. I was reminded of the Israelites on their journey from Egypt to the Promised Land; how they had travelled for years, finally at last close to their destination they arrived at the edge of Edom, the territory of the descendants of their ancestral brother Esau.

Because of their historical relationship, they politely request safe passage:

“Now we are here at Kadesh, a town on the edge of your territory. Please let us pass through your country. We will not go through any field or vineyard, or drink water from any well.”

Very reasonable, very accommodating and unthreatening, hardly meriting the response they received.

“You may not pass through here; if you try, we will march out and attack you with the sword.”

doesn’t take much stretch of the imagination to leap forward to what’s happening today along the borders of many European countries. Like the Israelites the people are escaping from violence and hardship; they’ve walked for miles, lives have been lost. It’s hard to put the footage of the little boy washed up on the sea shore out of my mind. Like the Israelites they are desperate to make a new start to their lives. Yet, instead of an army along the border, they face razor wire denying them the chance of at last reaching somewhere safe from war and violence, as country after country closes its borders.

We have been witnessing a migration on a scale that has not been seen in modem times. Our leaders seem to be at a loss to know what to do and how to cope with the numbers. Perhaps we should put the figures into perspective. If the numbers of migrants and refugees rose to a million that would be less than one third of one percent of the population of Europe. In those terms this is no greater than the migrations, or invasions, of the past. Europe is a diverse multicultural region and many of the nations are prepared to accommodate these refugees.This being the case, I’m finding the lack of preparation and organisation hard to understand. Why has this ‘exodus’ been allowed to continue without the organisation needed to help; the situation is currently out of control.

It’s good to know that ordinary people, especially Christians haven’t been prepared to stand by and watch, they’ve been out there on the railway stations, helping new arrivals and lines of organisation throughout the churches and other organisations are developing. Our brothers and sisters in Europe are acting in obedience to the model Jesus gave us.

‘Love one another as I have loved you’

Jesus paints a vivid picture of what will happen on his return. He says:

“Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.”

When his listeners questioned Jesus about when it was that they did those things, he replied:

“I tell you the truth, whatever you did for the least of one of these brothers or sisters of mine, you did it for me.”

Those we have seen on our television screens night after night are people made in the image of God – they are our brothers and sisters. The refugees and migrants are hungry, thirsty, in need of clothes and somewhere to live. We can help both with financial donations to Christian Aid and U.S., we can deliver material goods to collection points and, most importantly, we can pray for these desperate people to be welcomed and given the opportunity of a fresh start. Europe is a rich continent, we must help. Jesus himself was a refugee and he gave up everything for each and every one of us so that we might have eternal life. He expects us to respond to the current crisis with the compassion and love he pours out on all who tum to him.

My prayer is that, by the time you read this, progress will have been made.

Alan Rudge