For the second time I am reading Shane Claiborne’s book, Irresistible revolution. Like last time I read it, it challenges me. It challenges me in a kind of uncomfortable way, like when I was a kid and had been asked to clean, but had swept the junk under the bed, and then was confronted with my cheating. Claiborne’s challenge to start living the life that Jesus called us to is hard to ignore. It’s hard to ignore because what he calls us to do is straight from the Bible, from the teachings of Jesus. We are selective fundamentalists, he says. We choose to be fundamentalists on some areas (such as gay rights and abortion), but not so much when it comes to the Sermon on the Mount for example.
Ouch, ouch, ouch.
Some days ago I went to a Run for Relief here in Colorado. The goal of the event was to raise awareness and funds for the people running for their lives in Burma. It was a cool event, a beautiful, sunny day, nice people, and nice surroundings. But the coolest part about it was that there were a bunch of refugees there. They were people who had relocated from refugee camps in Thailand and who are now trying to make a life in the US.
Dressed the way they are dressed in the camps, with colorful sarongs, home-woven shoulder bags, babies on slings around their waists, they sat on the ground and ate their lunch. Then they sang for us, in Karen and Chin. Just like they do in the refugee camps. They smiled and spoke shyly when we spoke to them. ‘We thank our God for the health and all the good things he has given us,’ one of their pastors shared from the front. Again, a reminder of how far along they are compared to me.
Many of the refugees who praised God in front of me are living in the low-income areas of the city, sharing the neighborhood with gang members, people with criminal behaviors, and others who are looking for young girls that they can lure into prostitution. Many of the refugees work in places that most of us would say No, thank you to. Many of them have a huge debt hanging over their heads like a dark cloud threatening to erupt. They have to pay back hundreds and hundreds of dollars to the government for the airfare from Thailand to the US. Many of them dream of going back to help their people. The prospect of them being able to do that is less and less likely as they get more and more in debt.
I watched people at the race who have committed their lives and resources to helping these refugees. Here were people who gave generously to help the people of Burma who are living in Colorado get a good life. They help them by getting furniture for their homes, food to eat, warm clothes to wear. They also help them by assisting them when they have to fill out forms, go to public offices, enroll in schools, file their taxes. They help them get better jobs, get onto a church, learn English, and to learn about American traditions and culture. They help by driving to their places on a regular basis in order to give them rides, by taking them to the doctor’s office when they are sick, by playing with the children and making them laugh.
I thought to myself: These are a bunch of ordinary radicals that I have a lot to learn from. These are people who are taking Jesus’ word seriously, who don’t only speak about what is right, but who live it out. These are people that show the world who Jesus is.