(This is cross-posted from my personal blog, www.jimdoepken.com)
We are beginning a class on Shane Claiborne’s “The Irresistible Revolution” in Sunday School. But this week, as we were handing out the books, we talked about some quotes from Shane over the years. It was a way to get folks acclimated to some of Shane’s thoughts. It was a way to introduce his life. And my hope what that they’d get excited to dig in to the book.
The following quote from a 4th of July post stopped us in our tracks and made for an interesting conversation:
As an American, and especially as a Christian, I am convinced that a love for our own people is not a bad thing, but love doesn’t stop at borders. Love is infinitely boundless and all about holy trespassing and offensive friendships.
Now, in the context of the 4th of July, we can see where Shane Claiborne is going. It’s on Independence Day that “God and Country” can seem so intertwined that it’s hard to imagine God’s presence outside of our own land. As Claiborne says, “love doesn’t stop at borders.” Therefore love will call us to “trespass” beyond the the national borders that we’ve put up around us and it calls us to expand our love to other countries, other nations…even, perhaps, those whom it may be “offensive” to love. Sometimes it can be hard to picture good, or even basic humanity, in some parts of the world because of the various filters we have. We need to move beyond this.
This is, of course, modeled for us by Jesus. Jesus goes to the Samaritan woman at the well in John’s gospel, not only to someone outside of his own nation, but one who was, by nature of her marital history, outside of her own people. So much of his ministry involves reaching out to the least, the last, and the lost…wherever they are.
But, as we gathered Sunday, we weren’t hung up about crossing national borders going to other countries. We didn’t really dwell on the critique of nationalism that’s inherent in the quote. The critique is of “nationalism” not “our nation.” Even Shane goes on to say, “It’s not about being anti-American but about being pro-world.”
What I so enjoyed is that our conversation turned to a discussion about the “holy trespassing” that is needed closer to home, in our own communities.
See, we have “borders” as well. They may not be clearly defined on the map and have armed border crossings. But I know I have lived in places where there has been “the other side of the tracks.” I know, in Anchorage, there are neighborhoods where “those people” live; places where the crime rates are higher, where the people are different, where they talk with a different accent, or they drive different cars. I lived in one community where there was a particular apartment complex where many families lived yet many children from the town were warned to stay far away from there out of fear of “bad” influences. Those who lived in that complex knew that they were judged by many in the community merely because of where they lived and the reputation of the area. It was hard to reach out.
Perhaps, in your town, in your city, there is a boundary across which it is hard to love.
And so, on Sunday, we talked about our own town and how we divide ourselves. We talked about subsidized housing areas and where persons of different nationalities seem to live. We talked about the places of privilege and particular neighborhoods. People who had been around a while knew the names of the apartments and the areas.
We may not have boundary lines on a map, but we have divisions.
So, where the Claiborne quote comes in is getting us to think about how we can do some “holy trespassing” ourselves. What would it take to get us to cross some of these perceived (and real) boundaries that are in our community to show love to those who might be considered “the other?” While forming friendships across these lines might not be seen as “offensive,” they will definitely be seen as counter-intuitive.
There are risks to reaching out across boundaries this way. But, in contrast to Claiborne’s moving across borders to spend time in Iraq, the threats to our health, safety, and well-being are minimal. The main threat is the forming of relationships with people who are outside our normal sphere of relationships. And doing this makes us vulnerable.
The benefit is that it could be a witness to our God who calls us to love beyond our borders, doing a little “holy trespassing” for our God.