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The Rev. Dr. William H. Willimon The Rev. Dr. William H. Willimon

The Rev. Dr. William H. Willimon is Professor of the Practice of Christian Ministry at The Divinity School, Duke University. He retired after serving eight years as Bishop of the North Alabama Conference of The United Methodist Church.

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Bishop Will Willimon: Lost and Found Loving the Lost

May 07, 2012

I am sometimes asked why so many of our Methodists have actively opposed Alabama's controversial Immigration Law.  Many of our leading educators, law enforcement personnel, and business persons have criticized Senator Beason's law.  From what I've seen, the motivation of many Christians in opposing the law arise from our own experience with Christ; we were aliens from the love of God, lost, then we were found.

One reason that Christians tend to move toward those on the boundaries, tend to feel responsibility for the hungry and the dispossessed is because we worship the sort of God who has moved toward us while we were famished and out on the boundaries. God looks upon us all, even us fortunate ones, as the hungry and dispossessed who need saving. This is just the sort of God who commands, "when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, and the blind. And you will be blessed" (Luke 14:13-14). Here is a God who, for some reason known only to the Trinity, loves to work the margins inhabited by the poor, the orphaned, and the widowed; the alien and sojourner; the dead and the good as dead in the ditch. It is of the nature of this God not only to invite the poor and dispossessed but also to be poor and dispossessed, to come to the margins, thus making the marginalized the center of his realm. "Truly I tell you, just as you did it unto the least of these . . . you did it unto me" (Matt 25:40).

The story "I once was lost but now am found" is the narrative that gives us a peculiar account of lost and found, a special responsibility to seek and to save the lost. If we want to be close to Jesus-and that's a good definition of a Christian, someone who wants to go where Jesus is-then we've got to go where he goes. Christians go to church in order never to forget that we were strangers and aliens out on the margins (Eph 2:19).

"You know the heart of an alien, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt" (Exod 23:9). We were lost and then found. That continuing memory of the dynamic of our salvation-lost then found-gives us a special relationship to the lost, the poor, and anybody who does not know the story of a God who, at great cost, reaches far out in order to bring to close embrace.

-Adapted from The Best of Will Willimon, Abingdon, 2012.

Taken with permission from the Bishop's Blog, North Alabama Conference of the United Methodist Church.


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