By Rev. Paul Graves

A few weeks ago, I started this commentary on a day when the U.S. Senate and House played toxic political games with the lives of people trying to cross the southern borders of our country.

My disgust with these political games is aimed mostly at the Republicans who keep bending to Donald Trump’s cruel manipulation of people’s lives for his own possible political benefit. Add to that the recent power-play of Texas Gov. Greg Abbott to build a National Guard base at Eagle Pass that ratchets up his immigration fight with President Joe Biden.

These cynical political moves got me thinking about Jesus the border-walker. And that reminded me of a powerful insight from poet Robert Bly years ago: “On the borders is where one finds truth; at either side of the borders there may be certainties or doctrines, but not truth.”

I think the U.S. southern border reflects Bly’s insight. I also think Jesus is somehow walking that truth-border with migrants – and also with those who seek a truth greater than political manipulation allows.

To me, the border is a metaphorical fine line between love-fueled anger and fear-fueled rage. Jesus’ border walk upholds the truth of God’s despair at how we treat one another. It also upholds God’s compassionate hope we can dispense with our control-driven addiction to being “right” and focus on loving people in need.

“People in need” includes those standing far enough away from the truth-border that their rage and fear rule their lives. Their needs are real, even if those needs blind them to any sense of the “greater good” in our society.

Picture with me groups of people shouting political fear and rage from some distance – like Gov. Abbott and his supporters, like congressional leaders who reject a bipartisan border bill even if it does what they wanted. Their rage and fear prevent them from accepting the possible because… well, I’m not always sure why.

But our truth-border picture also includes people who are angry with a healthy, compassionate anger.

Samuel Wells reminded me that rage and anger don’t have to be the same thing. Wells is vicar of St. Martins-in-the-Fields Anglican Church in London. He wrote about rage and anger in the December 2023 issue of Christian Century. His context was the horror of war in Israel/Palestine. But his insights fit uncomfortably well on the southern border of our country too:

“When Jesus says, ‘I come not to bring peace, but a sword’ (Matt. 10:34), I understand that to mean, Don’t seek a sentimental peace, but one with sharp edges… Maybe peace is more like the sword that divides rage from anger. Rage inflames and inflates; anger can pinpoint a problem and isolate it, with the precision of a sword.

“Anger can be a constructive emotion, stirring us from distraction or self-absorption to an acute awareness of wrongdoing… But rage demands we… lose sight of the original wrong done in our rampaging quest for destruction and vengeance.”

Rage stalks the border from a distance. Where fuller truth and reality can’t touch it deeply. Where it refuses to see Jesus walking and living with those victimized by that rage. Where a distasteful political expediency overwhelms a deeper desire to “do the right thing.”

Wells concludes: “Healthy anger is… almost a prerequisite for true peace – a peace that doesn’t pretend fury will simply burn out, nor presumes enmity can be ignored or suppressed.”

The truth of the border is deeper and more redemptive than rage will ever touch. Anger is an essential, healthy part of that truth when it is fueled by unconditional love.

That’s something rage can never duplicate!

The Rev. Paul Graves is a retired elder member of the Pacific Northwest Conference of The United Methodist Church.

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