Kent Annan: The Parable of the Caravan

Jesus’ parables aren’t just stories to be read; they are meant to read us. Parables aren’t meant to affirm our rightness and everyone else’s wrongness. They can sneak past our personal armor to show us a better way to be. They can hold up a mirror (“Oh no, I’m the prodigal son’s big brother!”) or puncture our delusions (“Oh no, I’m the debtor who has been forgiven much but am unwilling to forgive a little!”), then show us where by grace we can grow in love.

The “migrant caravan”—as the large group of children and adults from countries like Honduras and Guatamala currently headed toward the US border seeking safety and better lives have been dubbed by the media—is excruciatingly real.

But in ways, the frenzied political debate about the caravan isn’t real because they’re so far from our border. Instead, what should be real is the opportunity to pay attention to love’s deep call on our lives.

One helpful way might be through the lens of a modern-day parable—and consider how it is reading us. Let’s call it the Parable of the Caravan.

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Once upon a time, the world’s most powerful kingdom enjoyed a record-low unemployment rate and record-high stock market prices.

Other countries much poorer were hosting millions of refugees, but this kingdom did all it could to keep these refugees out. Then one day, a thousand miles away, a few thousand people in danger in their own land joined together with the unrealistic dream of walking—yes, walking—a thousand miles to safety and jobs in the powerful, far away kingdom.

Moms and dads and children joined this “Caravan,” though even if they somehow made it to the kingdom, they had no way past the wide moat, towering wall, thick gate, and vast army that awaited them.

Meanwhile, behind the kingdom walls, people watched this faraway Caravan on their screens.

The person concerned about safety saw the Caravan on the TV as a ragtag group of vulnerable, unarmed, powerless people made up of moms and dads, sons and daughters. He felt a tinge of empathy, but then squinted hard to look through the decoder lens provided by politicians and TV pundits.

What he saw then was a group of well-armed, well-fed, highly-trained mercenary invaders better disguised than anyone had ever been disguised. He thought, We need our troops and weapons to protect us from these attackers in disguise. He heard the ruler of the kingdom promise to protect the border from these invaders, so he felt safe. The next time he saw the Caravan on TV, he clicked on by.

A virtuous Facebooker flipped past the Caravan on screen and thought, Let them in. Whatever it costs, someone else will pay the price, and I can claim the virtue. Saying ‘yes’ will feel good without having to do anything hard to help these people in need.

She could righteously ignore those who lost a loved one in a crime, who live near the border and face cultural upheaval and economic change, who teach these children in crowded classrooms and have to buy supplies out of their own pocket, or who house an asylum-seeking family. My duty here is done, she thought. She “liked” helping the Caravan without needing to pause beyond her screen to help.

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Source: Christianity Today