The Overnighters and what makes a ‘Christian country’

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so he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” – Luke 10:29

For a long time we have been told that we in the UK live in a ‘Christian country’. This message has been particularly hammered home by elements of the media who live in fear of difference and who feast on the fears of others. David Cameron in his Easter message this year declared such and that we as Christians should ‘not be afraid to say so’.

Ok I am a Christian. I’m not afraid to say so. I’m also not afraid to say we as a Christian country are currently getting things wrong!

In the last week I watched the excellent documentary The Overnighters on Netflix. This documentary highlight the plight of many men from across America who head to a small town in North Dakota to work on oil rigs following an explosion of employment in the state.

These men give up everything they have and leave to find something better in pursuit of the American dream, leaving behind their previous lives to support those back home. Many have nowhere to go and the promise of employment is very different to the reality of life in the town when they arrive. With so many effectively homeless men in their town Pastor Jay Reinke opens up the doors of his church to provide shelter.

The films highlights not the pastors good will but also the struggles of this decision. Not all church members want this. Some strongly object and declare the men to be ‘disrespectful’ of their faith. The Pastor’s time with his family is limited at best because of this project. However his strong conviction and belief is sheltering these men overrides these elements.

I couldn’t help but watch this film and be struck by the similarities we currently see with the migrant camps in Calais.

The same Prime Minister who proudly declares us a ‘Christian country’ has used badly chosen words to describe the migrants in Calais ‘swarms‘ was a particularly poor choice.

If we are to be a truly Christian country then surely we have to listen to Jesus when he says in Matthew 25: 35-40:For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me. 

Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’ 

“The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’

We can’t be a Christian country when it suits our motives and we gain from it. The real-time to show our Christianity is when it comes at a cost.

It will put a strain on resources to allow those in Calais into our country but surely that’s what being a Christian country is all about? Sacrifice, love, grace. Shutting our doors to those in search of a better life appears to me to be the least Christian thing we can do.

Pastor Reinke declares that The Overnighters a one point to be a ‘profound thing’ he goes on to explain ‘we have people literally walking up to our door from all over the world saying can you help me’. This is a very real and uncomfortable scenario for us in the UK right now.

Giles Fraser tweeted recently:

‘”Who is my neighbour?” ask the people of the south of England to Jesus. And they really don’t like his answer.’

Who is my neighbour is an easy question. The Overnighters show the difficulties of the answer.