I spent part of Holy Week in Nashville visiting with pastors, church leaders, and missionaries who are working to minister to refugees and immigrants who have come to the area from all around the world. I heard about what churches were already doing, their plans for the future, and why they cared about refugees. Then, one evening, I visited an apartment complex and had cake with a Syrian refugee family who had been here for about a year. They fled Hama, Syria when the Civil War started, spent a couple of years in Lebanon, and were then selected for refugee resettlement to the United States after two years of intense vetting and interviews. They are now here and life is difficult for them, but they are sticking together and are making it.
I met the oldest son of the family when he was leaving a Bible study that was attended by around 40 young men from countries like Syria, Nepal, the Congo, and other places where people flee from war, violence, and persecution. But, here in this apartment complex in Nashville, they crowded in to an apartment to hear from Genesis 37 about how Joseph is a picture of Jesus’ faithfulness. As we talked with this young man and his family, he was happy and generous, offering us cake and conversation. The Bible study had been led by college students from a ministry and a couple of churches. Three guys moved into an apartment and lived amongst the refugees and built relationships with them so they could help them and share the love of Christ with them. It was so encouraging.
Jesus makes all things new. The joy that I experienced this week in meeting Christians who were giving of themselves to love refugees from all over the world sticks with me. And, it reminds me of how different Jesus makes things. His resurrected life lives through us and makes an evening walk through an apartment complex in South Nashville with Syrian boys running behind and eating cake in an apartment with their family come alive and burst with the promise of eternity breaking in. Even in the midst of the poverty and difficulties there, I had this sense that the night was alive. I often experience that when I’m seeing things through the lens of the truth of the Resurrection. Jesus makes all things new.
John Stonestreet today on Breakthrough drew a comparison between the First Adam who failed because he chose himself and his way and the Last Adam, Jesus, who fulfilled God’s will in redemption. I read this and I couldn’t help but think about how Jesus tells the better story, how He makes all things new, and how He shows up in the midst of a Syrian family in South Nashville with Christians who have incarnated into the neighborhood to live, suffer, and rejoice alongside them.
The first Adam yielded to temptation in a garden. The Last Adam beat temptation in a garden. The first man, Adam, sought to become like God. The Last Adam was God who became a man. The first Adam was naked and received clothes. The Last Adam had clothes but was stripped. The first Adam tasted death from a tree. The Last Adam tasted death on a tree. The first Adam hid from the face of God, while the Last Adam begged God not to hide His face.
The first Adam blamed his bride, while the Last Adam took the blame for His bride. The first Adam earned thorns. The Last Adam wore thorns. The first Adam gained a wife when God opened man’s side, but the Last Adam gained a wife when man opened God’s side. The first Adam brought a curse. The Last Adam became a curse. While the first Adam fell by listening when the Serpent said “take and eat,” the Last Adam told His followers, “take and eat, this is my body.”
Jesus took our place and forgave us of our sins. He also took our messed up world and life that is self-focused, fear based, and that strives to be at the center of things and He gave Himself as a ransom for many. He became sin so we might become the righteousness of God. He emptied Himself, took on flesh, made His dwelling among us, and was the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. Jesus made all things new. And, that is what we remember and celebrate this weekend as we journey to the Cross on Friday, sit in silence on Saturday, and arise to celebrate the Resurrection of the Son of God on Sunday. Jesus stepped in to the brokenness, alienation, sin, loneliness, rejection, and death and moved in to our neighborhood and took it all upon Himself. Then, He died. But, death could not hold Him and He rose from the dead giving new life to all who call on His name.
My friend Josh who works with refugees in South Nashville took me to the apartment complex to meet the Syrian family last night and when we got to their apartment, the young man we were looking for was not there. But, we were told he was in the other apartment where they were meeting. I didn’t know what was going on or what to expect. So, we walked down the street and arrived at another building. Bursting out of the doors were all these young men from so many nations. They were all smiling and laughing and they shook our hands and introduced themselves to us. They were leaving the Bible study on Genesis 37 about Joseph. The young Syrian man was with the group and he came out of the apartment and joined us. Then, we went back to his apartment and had cake together and I learned about his family and his life.
I already shared all of this, but I share it again because in the light of Jesus, the Second Adam, reversing the curse and restoring us to life and making all things new, the whole scene comes together. Christians moved in to the neighborhood and a new community is being formed and light is breaking through darkness. And, this young man and his family came from Syria fleeing the horrors of war to experience this light and life and the love of God through His people. It was unexpected. The night was dark and I didn’t know what I was going to experience. But, life burst out of that apartment and everything seemed new and there was hope, not just for those living there but also for me. I was able to see sacrificial love and people giving and receiving and relationships being built and things happening that I keep being told don’t happen. “Muslims don’t respond to Christ. They want to kill us. They shouldn’t be here. They are dangerous.” Yet, I saw something different and it was revealed when Christians stepped in to that place and lived and loved sacrificially, laying down their lives for their new friends. And, these young men from all over the world are hearing a better story.
Jesus makes all things new. He is the Last Adam, the one who emptied Himself. He gave His life for us that we might live for Him. And, He calls us to do the same – to give our lives for Him and for others. I saw that happening in Nashville this week and it was a good thing. It looked like resurrection.