Being the good neighbor

We live in tumultuous times. No one can deny that is true. But does that mean we should allow our fears to remove our good sense and our sensibility? Will it mean that the common sense we once possessed will be overtaken by an often irrational prejudice toward people who aren’t like we are? Will we allow terrorists to change our hearts, our minds and our ability to be kind to other people?

The answer is fast — and unfortunately — becoming yes.

And our new president isn’t helping thanks to rapid-fire decisions like the one made last week with an executive order to suspend refugee entry from seven majority Muslim countries. President Trump’s executive order gives preference to refugees fleeing their countries over religious persecution, but the document he inked leaves little room for the welcoming arms this country has given to those seeking to escape their own countries for the freedoms we all share.

We understand — and in broad strokes agree with — the president’s intent to protect our country. That, after all, is one of the duties he swore to less than two weeks ago, and one we should all care that he upholds. But there is a fine line between protecting America and sheltering her from the things which have always made her stand apart from all the others.

Tighter controls are needed, wise choices a must, but holding our neighbors at bay because their native land is home to a handful of murderous rebels and cold-blooded extremists is giving in to our fears and allowing those who wish us harm a major victory.

That victory begins with Americans at each other’s throats — brother against brother — and ends with our country turning its backs on our neighbors simply because of who our neighbor might be.

Somehow time and circumstances have forced this new world view so many now share, as sad as it is. But we don’t believe we should live in fear anymore than we believe we should judge every Muslim, every Hispanic or every non-Christian by the acts of a few.

That would be like judging all Americans based on the actions of Dylan Klebold, Eric Harris, Dylan Ruth, Adam Lanza or James Holmes. Klebold and Harris went on a murderous rampage at Columbine High School, Ruth killed African-Americans in their Charleston church; Lanza opened fire on elementary kids at Sandy Hook and Lanza turned deadly fire on movie-goers at an Aurora, Colorado move theater.

Fear makes us do strange things, and it sends our prejudices into high gear. Our president is only exacerbating those fears with the executive ordered signed last week.

We should follow the principles taught by Jesus in the New Testament. For Christians, the message is clear: we are to love our neighbors as ourselves.

The question now becomes, who is our neighbor? While we have to be discerning as we think about that question, we should look through far less prejudicial eyes.

Fear has allowed our view of our neighbor to narrow to those who look and think like us, believe like us and vote like us.

We hope our fears subside so we might see more clearly the truth. For our neighbor might live next door, in another town, another state or even another country. When we help fund wells that provide drinking water to people of other nations, we are helping our neighbor; when we stop along the road to help a stranded motorist who might be Muslim, we are reaching out to our neighbor.

When we welcome people into our country who are trying to better themselves, escaping the murder and mayhem of countries where freedoms don’t exist, we are helping our neighbor.

It’s what makes us Americans; and, as Christians, it’s what makes us more like Jesus.

We must be discerning, but we mustn’t turn our backs. Because one day we might just be the neighbor who needs the help of others.