In the room where I live, I have one of those modern maps where the cartographers have adjusted the proportions of the countries to represent their true geographic regions. It is pretty interesting to study. The United States is not quite as large as it appeared on the maps I had as a child. The continent of Africa dwarfs the continent of Europe, and Brazil finally gets it”s due.
As interesting as the map is to study, however, there is still one glaring problem with it. You see, Brazil is not really purple. And Canada is not really orange. And Botswana is definitely not lime green.
Worst of all, you know all those thick black lines that divide the colors into neatly organized areas? They are not really there. The world is not, in the end, a paint by numbers set; and God has not drawn those lines there for us to fill in with different colors.
The lines are there because we drew them. God did not put them there. With swords and guns and pens humankind has drawn its lines to mar and divide the face of God”s creation. With boundaries and borders and walls, we claim which part is yours and which part is ours and forget that it all actually belongs to God.
Some of us travel freely across the lines we have made, carrying privilege in our passports; and some flee across borders to seek a different life, as the Israelites fled across the Red Sea, only – in this case – to be turned away.
During July, our students are out of school in the United States, and so thousands of teenagers from my country will be traveling to serve in countries like Guatemala. At the same time, thousands of teenagers from countries like Guatemala lie in detention here in Texas and Arizona, awaiting deportation for having tried to travel into the United States. The reasons behind this may make sense to an informed adult, but to a child of 12 years old it can be very confusing. Yet, God seems to think that we adults sometimes have a lot to learn from children; as Matthew 18:3 says, “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of God.”
Have you ever taken the time to think about how God feels about this situation? Close your eyes and imagine God staring at our maps. Or if you have a map, meditate on it along with God.
Try asking God:
What do you want me to know about the world you created?
How do you want me to pray with the world you created?
How do you want me to live with the world you created?
Luke 13 speaks about people traveling, as so many are doing this summer for a variety of reasons and motivations. In verse 29 it says, “Then people will come from east and west, from north and south, and will eat in the kingdom of God. Indeed, some are last who will be first, and some are first who will be last.”
Jesus reminds us continually in the scriptures that we belong to this thing called “the kingdom of God” that includes people from the north and south and east and west. The kingdom that God calls us to be a part of is one that is brought together through faith in Jesus Christ. It is a kingdom that transcends all differences of nation, language, ethnicity, and race. It is a kingdom where any divisions and walls that we have built, have been destroyed through the love and sacrifice of Christ. It is not a kingdom that seeks to do violence or assert power; it is the kingdom of a suffering servant and a Messiah who was willing to die. It is not a kingdom that pushes away the poor or the struggling in order to move faster and achieve more; it is the kingdom that says “let the little ones come” (Matt. 19:14) and “care for the widows and orphans” (James 1:27) and “love the sojourner, giving him food and clothing” (Deut. 10:18).
Living out the story of God, and living as citizens of the kingdom of God, requires much of us. It requires much thinking, much soul searching, much praying, and much acting. It has always been that way for those whom God has called and given a task and a mission in this world.
Prayer Focus: This month we pray that God will move our hearts and help us to see that lines made by humans cannot separate us from serving the kingdom of God and loving those who have become our family through the blood of Christ.
The Rev. Hannah Adair Bonner
The United Methodist Church