It’s been about a year since the conflict between Ukraine and Russia began, and in that year people’s impression of Americans have changed significantly. When my husband first started serving in Siberia before we were married, being American was on par with being a rock-star. When we moved to western Russia as a family about 4 years later, we were perhaps not rock-stars, but at very least intriguing. Moving to a big city only 3 years after that, people found us mildly interesting but often beneficial to them if they were seeking to improve their English. Now, however, another 5 years later, I have been yelled at and found myself on a number of occasions the scapegoat for various people’s frustration and rage at the dealings of my entire country. Whereas at one time questions about my background were great conversation starters, I now find myself hoping that my grammar and accent don’t give me away, though they almost always do.
The worst of this change has been how it has affected my children. They have now been yelled at twice on the playground, just for being Americans. They have been told that nobody wants them here and that they should go back to where they came from. Of course most people are still kind or at least tactful, but there are those who are not. I can understand the political frustrations, but it is hard for me to understand why people would yell at my children for something that they have absolutely no control over. They had no choice in the fact that they would be Americans raised in Russia. They don’t even understand why our two countries would not get along. They are completely innocent, yet find themselves bearing the brunt of people’s anger. It has been so painful to have the same people that we dearly love and have given much of our life for, despise me and my family.
I know that what I am experiencing pales so greatly in comparison to what so many of you face each and every day, but even in this relatively mild situation, I have come to understand a bit more what Jesus endured for our sake. I am heartbroken that I am not welcomed by the people that I love so deeply and have given up so much to serve. How much more profoundly was Jesus pained by rejection? My pain and sacrifice are so miniscule compared to His, yet He has used this tiny microcosm to grow my desire to know what it means to humbly love and serve as He did.
Jesus was reviled by those whom he came to save. He was rejected by those that he loved with a perfect and passionate love. He was spat upon, beaten, and brutally killed by his very own creation. And you and I were just like these people at one time; like the people who hate and lash out at my children despite their innocence, and like the people in the enraged crowd responsible for sentencing the innocent Lamb of God to death. Being called names and disliked for my nationality cannot even begin to be likened with how my countless wretched sins pained my beloved and sinless Savior, costing Him his life.
In this situation of being yelled at and dealt with in other unpleasant ways, I find my fleshly self tempted to become hard and to find fault back in the other direction. How could a person who despises me deserve my kindness and love? They don't deserve it. But, as tomorrow is Easter for us, I am deeply reminded of Jesus humble and sacrificial love for me, and how in His mercy and grace, He did not grow bitter with me despite all of the ways that I turned from and hurt Him. I deserved to be faulted and punished for my sins against the innocent and almighty Messiah, yet He loved me. He didn’t respond to me in the way that I deserved, but rather gave His life in the ultimate sacrifice of love so that I might be saved. These are the very basics of the gospel and Christ-likeness, yet it is still a struggle sometimes to truly want to love other sinful people the way that Jesus loved me.
Lord, I know you want me to be like you. I know you want me to humbly love even those who yell at me, misunderstand me, and look down upon me simply for the passport that I hold. I know that you want my love for these people to grow rather than diminish even as tensions rise. Lord Jesus, I praise you for the example of your perfect love that freely loved me, even though doing so sent you to the cross. I pray that you would grow me to be like you; Help me love those whom you love with a selfless and sacrificial love, even if it means being reviled in return as you were. Lord, please make each one of us more like you with each passing day. Amen.
Have you experienced being disliked or hated where you are serving? What does that look like for you? How have you dealt with it personally, and especially with your children? How has the Lord used such things in your life and ministry?