Stewardship as a Matter of Life and Death

CrossOver reflection for Week 25 • Beginning May 26, 2019
We Make the Road by Walking, Chapter 38

Rev. Jim Frisbie

Christian stewardship is a big deal. It is not just about money. It’s not just about being in service to others. It can be, as we respond to Christ’s call to authentically care for others, a matter of life and death.

When we embrace a robust understanding of Christian stewardship, we have to be willing not only to help those in need but to recognize and respond to their emergencies as if it were our own. Perhaps that is the intersection of empathy and action. The real test comes when we are asked to bend or break the rules as we seek to protect those who look to us for deliverance.

In conversations over coffee and donuts at our local airport, I have often had friends offer their opinions about immigrants crossing the southern border. “They are breaking the law” they relay adamantly, as if to suggest that by crossing into the US without permission all immigrants fall into the same category as drug dealers and human traffickers.  

But what about a situation when we cannot both do the right thing and follow the rules? Sometimes we must break the rules, and even the law, to do what is necessary and appropriate.

As a private pilot, I am constantly aware of what it means to be “Pilot in Command.” In that role, I assume stewardship for the safety and well-being of those in the aircraft with me. If something occurs in the course of a flight, it is my responsibility to do whatever is necessary to ensure the safety of those on board—even if that means breaking the rules.

A pilot, facing a critical situation in flight, is expected to “declare an emergency” and then do whatever it takes to get the people under his or her care safely on the ground, even if that means landing an airliner in the Hudson River. It is not that the rules and laws don’t matter, but that there are expected exceptions that one in charge of the safety of others must do. 

Isn’t that exactly what those seeking asylum for their children by crossing the southern border are doing? They are “declaring an emergency” by fleeing a dangerous and even deadly threat to their lives and the lives of their children. They are getting them to safety, then standing responsibly before the authorities to answer for their actions. Yet we have consistently denied these courageous people the same latitude which is written into the laws of our land concerning basic safety for those at risk, be it in the air or on the ground.

The real emergency at our southern border is a case by case response to human safety. Each family that has fled violence and hunger is facing the hard choices of seeking safety, not just opportunity. If we who are sitting in judgment of others would accept this perspective, we might discover a new appreciation for the courage and fortitude of the immigrants coming to us. Liberated from our judgment, we could instead engage our creativity, compassion, and resources to welcome them as the heroes they are.

Perhaps it is time for us to engage our sedate value of Christian stewardship in a radical and pro-active way, eagerly offering care for those who look to us for help. The emergency of our siblings is our emergency too. And in this, we should do first what brings people to safety, even if that may necessitate bending or breaking the rules. To my mind, this does not compromise or invalidate the rules and laws by which we live, but rather puts a human face on them.

Rev. Jim Frisbie is a retired elder in the Oregon-Idaho Annual Conference.

Comments (4)

  • Somehow that sounds of justification based on personal opinion rather than being a law abiding citizen.

    Jesus said that we are guilty of breaking all the law if we break the least of them.
    God ordained the government we are subject to and told us to be obedient so long as it doesn’t require us to violate His Commandments. Our immigration laws are user friendly as long as you seek lawful entry.

    The sad thing I feel is that the UMC news seekers have forgotten our mission. All I read any more is social activism and culturally driven talk about sexual trends. I thought that Christ called us to spread the Gospel and be salt and light to the world ; not deny the infallibility of His Word

  • Hi Jim,

    I understand and respect your love and concern for families fleeing almost unimaginable hardship. As Christians and as individuals who have been blessed to live in a prosperous nation where many of us have opportunities that the majority world can barely imagine, I believe it is our God-ordained duty and mission to help people who are living in political and economic chaos. And I agree that we must care for the people who are now in our country.

    However, after spending more than 15 years in the southern portion of a border state, I cannot ignore the suffering, abuse, drug trafficking, human trafficking, violence, rape, and murder that our current immigration system is allowing. Our southern borders need to be strictly controlled to prevent the horrific abuse of the people who are PAYING to be herded like cattle from other countries.

    I suggest that you talk to a few border workers and border law enforcement agents (who, by the way, are predominantly Hispanic/Latinx). You will hear about murdered ranchers (also mostly Hispanic/Latinx), sexually abused children, pregnant teenaged girls, HUGE amounts of drugs, brutal gang assaults and murders, and pregnant teenaged girls who arrive with venereal disease, including AIDS.

    The solution to this problem requires a commitment to decrease our national greed and over-consumption, and begin to share with other nations so they can protect and care for their own people. We need to close down our borders to stop the drug trade that is creating the gang violence in drug producing countries, which is causing the violence and abuse that people are trying to flee. Instead, we are putting tiny bandages on a massive wounds.

    This is a systemic problem that we may actually be making worse by refusing to recognize our failure to truly love others enough to help them BEFORE they become desperate. We need to begin dealing with the true roots of the problem, starting with our own selfishness and greed!

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