I don’t play much pool. I’m not opposed to the game in principle, just averse to recreational endeavors that rely so heavily upon geometry. (I had my fill of that in 9th grade. Mrs. Faglie was my teacher. When I was in her class, her son happened to be in the music class my mother taught at a school down the street. For the entire year it felt like we were caught in some bizarre, parent swap movie on the Disney channel. Good times.)
Despite these qualms, the image of a pool table has been in my mind all week, following the conversation we had on Sunday at Capitol City about immigration. As we discussed, thinking biblically about immigration seems quite challenging at the moment, as respected Christian leaders sit on both sides of the issue. How are Christians to know how to think and how to live when those charged with teaching and leading them cannot agree?
It has helped me, in light of the controversy around this issue, to think about the image of a pool table. Imagine that you are down to your final shot in pool. Because of how your opponent’s balls sit on the table, you really only have one option – to put the ball in the corner pocket. That’s the goal. However, there are a handful of ways you can get to that goal. You might try a double bank shot off the side rail. You might use the cue ball to hit another ball into your ball and into the pocket. There are many options you can choose between to accomplish your goal. Different players will undoubtedly prefer different approaches. But everyone playing the game in your place would have the same goal. Everyone would want to put the ball in the corner pocket.
Your approach to the immigration issue is a bit like this hypothetical pool game. There is a definite goal – and that goal is the same for every Christian. We are to love our neighbor as ourselves (Mark 12:31). We are to remember what the parable of the Good Samaritan teaches us, that everyone is our neighbor (Luke 10:25-37). We are to respect the value, dignity, and worth of every human being, as every human being is created in the image of God (Gen 1:26-28). We are to live in this world as pilgrims, mindful that the lives we live are to point people to the God of our heavenly home (1 Pet 2:11-12). We are to approach life in this world as a gift, especvially as it affords us oppportunities to proclaim Christ, all the while realizing that death is gain when in death we get to meet Christ (Phil 1:21). The goal of every Christian life is to respond obediently to these ideas.
Yet we will have differing opinions on matters like security, protection, background checks on refugees, and the like. We will have differing opinions over what it really means to love a refugee from Syria (i.e., what is the most-loving thing we can do for such a person?). To some degree, these differing opinions amount to differing approaches to that final shot in pool. So long as we each have the same goal in mind – putting the ball in the corner pocket – we should show one another grace and compassion. The questions before us on these issues are challenging, and their answers are complex. The Bible makes quite clear our goal in this conversation. The route we choose to get there is largely left to each of us to determine.
Let’s pray that the Lord would give us wisdom to love people well as we converse about this issue, and as we live every day as spiritual refugees, longing for and pointing people to our heavenly home.