This is a message that I’ve heard many times in church. One that I’m sure you’ve heard before. I’m learning it again, so I’m going to write about it.
I went to Lesvos, Greece (pictured above) last week and volunteered in a refugee camp. I’ve been in Geneva, surrounded by NGOs talking about the refugee crisis, writing papers about humanitarianism, and I was itching to break free from the picturesque life of eating expensive macrons and running through manicured parks. Many refugees cross the Mediterranean from Turkey to seek asylum in Lesvos and continue on to resettle in western Europe. I believe God put refugees on my heart and that he called me to Lesvos to bring the light of Christ into the suffering of those who have lost their families, fled war and are seeking refuge. For He is “a father of the fatherless, a defender of widows (Psalm 68:5).”
So I showed up and got to work. The first day I volunteered, I helped with food distribution. We would bring a certain amount of food to each room, and I learned quickly that some of the refugees weren’t eating all their food. Immediately, I was outraged! I thought we were wasting resources and that there must be a better way to do this. Of course I thought I knew best because I had just written a paper about how to do this right and listened to talks at the UN where they told me about how they knew how to do it right. I thought why don’t we just have the refugees come pick up their food so we don’t have to see it go to waste?
Just a few days later, I came crashing down from my ivory tower. For some of the other areas of camp, this was the method of food distribution. And in fact, this method doesn’t work perfectly. People cut the line, fights start, people through rocks, and chaos descends.
It became clear to me that these people don’t need me to write a paper about how to run a refugee camp or think about all the things I would change about the camp after my first day of work. They don’t need me to make policy recommendations. They don’t need me to exalt myself in the midst of their suffering. Indeed, they don’t need me at all. They need Jesus. And that’s why I came.
“for the love of Christ compels us, because we judge thus: that if One died for all, then all died; and He died for all, that those who live should live no longer for themselves, but for Him who died for them and rose again (2 Corinthians 5:14-15).”
In humble thanksgiving for the price that Jesus paid on the cross, I greeted the refugees into their section of camp as the security guard with a smile. It took all that I had to love the refugees. All my energy, focus, and heart. This was the call. Not to come in and try to do the job that only Christ can do, but to be an ambassador for Christ. To let His strength come through in my weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9). For all the “solutions” that I, a broken sinner can come up with, there is nothing that compares to the love of Jesus Christ. It is His sacrifice on the cross that saves.
Jesus’ declaration in John 14:6 applies to refugees and also to me.
“I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.”
The only solution to this broken world filled with broken people, stumbling around using broken systems is Jesus. I’ve learned this lesson in my personal life too. Sometimes, okay, all the time, I think about my needs and my desires in relationships. I limit relationships to the horizontal of this world at a huge loss.
As Jesus said, “peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid (John 14:27).”
For in Christ, there is true freedom to love and to serve. I have no peace when I think in the horizontal of this world. There is only disappointment and a troubled, afraid heart. Living in the vertical, relating to others in the vertical, radical, and powerful way of Jesus Christ is what we are made to do.
“He who finds his life will lose it, and he who loses his life for My sake will find it” (Matthew 10:39)
Only in humble surrender can we find true life. Too often I seek to glorify myself. I want to build my own little kingdom and surround myself with people who will serve me. I walk into a refugee camp and exalt myself as the solution to the world’s problems instead of coming along side the suffering of the refugees and loving them in this time of difficulty. I explain to people in my life all they ways they should change to better serve me instead of appreciating them for who God made them to be and allowing God to use their differences to actually teach me.
God has called me to so much more than maintaining my little kingdom. He has not called me to seek my own glory but to “put on tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, longsuffering (Colossians 3:12).” Praise God and all Glory be unto His name!