Yaabut—I’m pretty sure it’s not a real word and yet I seem to hear it all the time…
We need to welcome refugees—right now that means Syrian refugees especially.
Yaabut there are lots of people in Canada to help and you know that the Syrians are just planning to come to Canada and have lots of children and take over our way of life.
I don’t think that’s true. I think that people are looking for a safe place to live in peace.
Yaabut if they just want to live in peace why are young men coming in disproportionate numbers? I think it is a terrorist plot.
It isn’t just young men though. I’ve seen photos of families and older people—all kinds of people who seem worn out and tired and vulnerable. I am sure that we are called to welcome and help these refugees.
Yaabut did you see how many of them have cell phones and nice clothes? Maybe they don’t really need our help. Maybe they are taking advantage of us to get into our country and undermine our way of life.
That seems harsh to me. This isn’t a safe journey for them. I doubt it was an easy decision to leave their home, their family, their income, everything familiar to venture into the unknown. I would need to feel truly threatened to do that, wouldn’t you?
Yaabut they are really picky about stuff. I heard that they wouldn’t take food and medicine from the Red Cross because of the cross on the packages—too Christian.
I guess it’s not really anything new. We have long struggled when it comes to who we should and shouldn’t help in this world. We worry about putting ourselves at risk, about being “suckers”. If we offer hospitality will we accidently invite a terrorist into our country—our home? How likely is it that we will entertain angels? (Hebrews 13:2)
In chapter 10 of Luke’s gospel, there is a story about who is our neighbour. A man is traveling—he is robbed and injured and in need of care. A priest sees him and says, “Yaabut, if I stop to help I will become impure and unable to perform my duties.” A Levite has a similar response, “Yaabut, he is a Samaritan and I am a Levite—I will help my own kind.”
Who is my neighbour? When we ask this question, we are really wondering if we must respond to the needs of the other person or not. We are really wondering if our call to hospitality must truly extend to all. We are really asking if our love—the love of God which we seek to share—can be in any way conditional.
Here is what Dietrich Bonhoeffer had to say about it:
“…’Who is my neighbour?’…The answer is: ‘You are the neighbour. Go along and try to be obedient by loving others.’ Neighbourliness is not a quality in other people, it is simply their claim on ourselves. Every moment and every situation challenges us to action and to obedience. We have literally no time to sit down and ask ourselves whether so-and-so is our neighbour or not. We must get into action and obey—we must behave like a neighbour to him.”
The Cost of Discipleship, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, SCM Press Ltd, 1959, page 67-68.
I hear the concerns that people express about extending ourselves to refugees. I know the fears and prejudices and genuine uncertainties. I have heard all the Yaabuts you can throw at me and I am still convinced that the call to Christians is clear and unequivocal—we have no choice but to reach out and to draw the other in. We must always take a chance and welcome the stranger. We must always help the vulnerable, even if it puts us at risk.
Yaabut, who is my neighbour?
The one who shows mercy is the neighbour.
by Laura T. Kavanagh