Statue of Liberty National Monument, Ellis Island and Liberty Island, Manhattan, in New York County (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
This message of compassion toward immigrants to the United States can be found at the base of the Statue of Liberty in New York City. It bears a striking resemblance to a statement Jesus made as recorded in Matthew 11:28, “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.”
Emma Lazarus wrote the poem “The New Colossus” and donated it for the building of the pedestal for the statue of Liberty. Her family had been immigrants from Portugal and were Sephardic Jews. The complete poem reads thus:
“The New Colossus”
Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.
“Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she
With silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”
-Emma Lazarus, 1883
As I continue working with immigrants from all over the world, I am moved by stories of escape from political persecution, poverty, lack of opportunity and religious persecution. Many of my recent students are Christians who have left Syria to escape the violence that has killed many of their own.
When they arrive in the United States, they come to a land of peace. They come to a land of hope and promise. They come to a land of freedom and liberty. That’s not to say the U.S. doesn’t have it’s issues, but it’s a far cry from the everyday stresses of survival that they have had to live with. Most people are grateful to come here.
After Jesus spoke about the Judgment of the cities of Israel who rejected Him, He offered this,
28 “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 29
Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30
For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”
Christian, is your soul burdened by the guilt, shame and hopelessness your pastor has heaped upon you? Have the “biblical principles” told you that you need to be “squeaky clean” in order to come to God? Do you fear that, despite all of your best efforts to hold to the demands of the the law, you are falling behind and cannot make up the ground? Do you feel hopelessness, despair, and defeat?
Then, Christ welcomes you to come to Him. He doesn’t ask that you clean yourself up, because that is His job. He simply wants you to come. It wasn’t ever-cleaning Martha who did the right thing by sitting at the feet of Jesus, but Mary who gave up on her own effort to please God and see that Jesus pleased God for her.
Jesus welcome you now by saying, “Come to me…” He doesn’t say this to the perfectionistic, self-absorbed, self-righteous, self-cleaning and holier than thou church member. He says this to those who see their failures, weaknesses and willful sinfulness. He says this to those who despair of their own ability to keep the “application points” their pastor gives them every week. Jesus says this to you and me.
And, He continues to say this. “Come to me …. and I will give you rest”. This rest is not just for the now. It’s not just in this place, but He has gone before you to set up a place in Heaven for you to live with Him forever in eternal peace, rest and glory.
The welcome mat is laid out for us, and that welcome mat is the broken body of Jesus given for you.
Now and forever,