Boundaries, grace and laws

15 Mar

I woke up from a vivid dream just now. I was back home in India – with friends from school. Nearly ten years ago now. And I felt… excluded.

I keep asking that they pass the fish (don’t ask šŸ˜‰ ) and they ignore me. One of the women – the friend I remember – and I talk, and I ask her about her recent faith in Christ. She shows me a photograph. In the photograph is the glowing sculpture of a well-known Hindu idol. I understand – she is not Christian any more. Finally I jokingly ask for the fish please! – a little louder than before. Someone takes the plate away as I reach for it, gives it to a boy who has been eating most of it… I object still in good humour – the woman by my side nods. The man takes offense and almost throws the plate in my direction, piling a couple of leftovers in it.

I am not given to images of victimisation in my dreams. Much less to violent victimisation. But at this point, the dream turned violent with clubs and knives and I was ‘the Other’.

Post-colonial theory aside, this woke me up summarily.

It was quite unlike me. I can see a few things I can connect to my life right now. A friend taking the easy way out, ignoring Christ – someone asked me about that Ā just yesterday. I saw a photograph of an idol on someone’s Facebook page that I wasn’t expecting to see. There is some fear in my mind.Ā But hang on, hang on – the violence, me being the victim… These areĀ not things that occupy my mind at all. I haven’t thought about much less been in touch with the woman who spoke to me for a long while! Ā And I wasn’t hungry. I’m still quite full.

But I woke up. And I decided to come and pray. Talk to God about the (unrelated) fears in my mind. The worries and the insecurities. There are possibly a couple of other people I could take those to – but not quite like this… I ended up reading some edifying material in this wonderful place.

And happened upon this.

Now I am not Catholic. But it resonated with me. For whatever reason – the changing times, the fluidity of culture, the way boundaries melt and dissolve into space and new boundaries keep being drawn to hold our human-sized visions – I am a sojourner, a stranger in the land. Both lands. I’ve never been an illegal immigrant. I probably will never be. Probably.

But what about the woman whose whole family is in another country but she is no minor anymore? What about the couple who cannot afford the fees and the legislation? What about the family whose poverty drives them before a government can label them refugees? In the priests’ position, I might have to acknowledge their status to the system but I might also be bound to fight on their behalf.

And what about those who aren’t in any of the situations we might call compromising? Does the church let them go hungry? Does the gospel find itself thwarted?

Some of the comments argued that Bishop Rodi was wrong in ‘harbouring’ these illegal immigrants, or ‘aiding and abetting’ their plans. No, I don’t think he is doing that. He and the several other Protestant/Catholic churches in this fight are simply fighting for the right to serve. To serve Christ, whatever this Christ brings across our path.

Our worldview today is so different from the way God set up a people – oh, there were immigration laws in place like our requirements for residency (did you know that?) but there was a very clear callĀ to love the stranger in our gates. And a very strong history of doing so, much of the threads of which are built into the line of David and then Jesus himself. Ruth. Rahab. Bathsheba. There are both the victims and the victimised there…

And yet, my dream today made me think of this in a far more emotional way. I needed to feel alienated to come to a realisation. How very far we haveĀ come from God’s focus on the person. On grace.

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