If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away; it is better for you to lose one of your members than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away; it is better for you to lose one of your members than for your whole body to go into hell.
Friday morning I was at the campus of the University of Akron with my wife, Linda, who teaches English as a Second Language to international students there. As you might imagine, there is a lot of anxiety on campus among students from foreign countries who are facing an uncertain future because of the changing landscape of immigration.
University of Akron President,
Dr. Matthew J. Wilson
The president of the university, Dr. Matthew Wilson, held an open forum to speak with anyone interested in the situation. The forum was called to share with the students, the international students in particular, what the university knew and didn't know about the recent changes in immigration policy, which seems to change hourly. One of the professors, Elizabeth Knowles, was a specialist in immigration law.
Earlier in the week, President Wilson issued a
statement on the executive order
. At Friday's meeting, he reassured the students that the university is committed to supporting ALL students of the institution. In his words, the international community positively impacts the university, and he stressed that the university values inclusion, diversity,mutual respect, equal opportunity, intellectual liberty, free speech, fearless inquiry, privacy, and safety. Their purpose is to educate and build bridges, not walls.
Immigration is a divisive issue. I wrote a
last Thursday that hopefully explained what we Lutherans believe and how we address matters affecting the stranger among us and the stranger who seeks welcome.
We don't live life in a vacuum, but in relationship with each other. We may not always agree on issues, but disagreement is not a reason to cut off a relationship. I use the word "relationship"
This coming Sunday's
is in many ways about relationship. Jesus is giving his disciples lots of advice as he prepares them for mission into the world. Jesus discusses anger, adultery, divorce and swearing - not cursing, but on taking an oath or making a promise.
The disciples didn't necessarily ask for all this advice, Jesus is simply giving it. I chose to highlight the two verses above because they are the most extreme of his exhortations. It's enough to make the disciples think twice about what they've gotten themselves into.
I don't know of anyone who is good at taking advice (least of all, me). We ask someone for guidance and counsel, but in most cases, we already have deeply ingrained opinions that we'll have to hurdle.
But if they're going to follow Jesus, the disciples, and by extension, we today, are challenged to see the world in a new way. Jesus is calling for an entirely new way of viewing human relationships. All the hyperbole of cutting off hands and tearing out eyes and burning in hell serve to magnify just how important our relationships are to God.
Most of us in general love only our friends and our family-and we aren't sure about our family at times. But our aim as Christians is to break through those limitations, to see each other as children of God, and sisters and brothers in Christ, to go the extra mile toward reconciling whatever divisions exist between and among us.
Relationships that are important to us require us to be intentional in our care and nurture of them. God has called us to be as gentle with one another as God has been with each of us.
This coming Sunday morning I will be with the good people of St. Michael's in Marshallville.
Later that day, at 3:00 p.m., I will join several other clergy and women religious at the Motherhouse of the Dominican Sister of Peace, 1230 West Market Street in Akron, for an
Ecumenical Prayer Service
to celebrate unity and community in prayer and song.
I wish you a blessed week!
+Bishop Abraham Allende