Vol 11 No. 45 The Stranger At The Gate; The Stranger In Our Midst


Genesis 18:1-16; Hebrews 13:2

Dedicated to Margaret Ridgeway


Dear folks,jbellnewsnotes

We cannot begin a newsletter this week unless we begin by addressing the terrorist attacks in Paris.  We cannot begin to address those without also noting that Beirut experienced one of the most deadly terrorist attacks in many years with no great note; no Western media gnashing of teeth or no great public remonstration.  We could also think of the attacks in Baghdad.  I wonder if we seem to have a different value for life depending where in the world someone is murdered.

One of the best and most comprehensive statements on this desperate tragedy is found in the letter from the President of the Evangelical Fellowship of Canada, Bruce Clemenger:

In response to the terrorist attacks of recent weeks, most recently on the people of France, our thoughts and prayers are with the families of those killed, with those who have been wounded and with the people of these hurting nations.

As our sister alliance in France has said: “This horrendous jihadist violence that has struck our country must not prevail. Refuse to give in to panic and hatred and let us put our confidence in justice. In these times of adversity, let us bond in national solidarity. And, for those who believe in the hope that the gospel brings, let us pray for our country and those in authority”.

We call upon Canada’s Christians to pray for these countries and their leaders in the days to come. May God give them wisdom and courage in the face of terror and adversity. Let us respond not out of fear, but with resolve in the pursuit of justice; let us strive for peace. True religion is that which cares for widows and fatherless children, which binds those who are wounded and cares for those with broken hearts, which uplifts all who are in distress.

May we remind ourselves that perfect love drives out fear and of our call to love our neighbor as we show kindness and respect to people of all faith groups including at this time the Muslim communities of Canada who are also shocked and grieved by terrorism.

We are beset by another challenge, not simply the one that presents itself in Paris; that is, how will we now live into receiving refugees from areas that are both conflicted, and religiously and ideologically compromised?  It is reasonable as a Christian to hold in tension and in balance (both words are simplistic and overused) the need for radical hospitality with the need to ensure that refugees that are arriving on our shores are those that are appropriate to the honourable name of refugee (like our Lord Jesus as an infant).  We must do more than simply passively approve.  We must understand fully Genesis 18:1-16 and how it is cited and summarized in Hebrew 13:2.  We must surprise ourselves by our steady steadfastness and courage, our dependence on God, and our recognition that we offer to those in need the mending, welcome, and generosity with which we have been treated by Christ himself.

I dedicate these remarks to Margaret Ridgeway who, as a single woman in the early 1940’s, from a well-established and excellent Vancouver family, was deeply grieved as a Christian about the internment of Japanese Canadians after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbour.  This internment occurred against the advice of the army, military intelligence, and the RCMP.  It was spearheaded by a Christian.  For many years Margaret was a member of First Baptist Church in Vancouver, BC.  She knew of the way of the cross.  Over the years until the end of the war she experienced the way of the cross.  She left the comfort of her home and was disowned by her family because she believed that to be the hands and feet of Jesus, she was to teach in a Japanese internment camp.  She faced the fear of those around her and the anxiety driven by racial hatred.  She followed a simple belief from Hebrews 11 that inasmuch as it depended on her “God would not be ashamed to be called her God.”

I pray and trust that each one of us might be like Margaret, who in turn was like Jesus.

Peace of the Lord be with you in these turbulent times.


In Christ,

Jeremy Bell