We had the occasion to meet Jose the bartender last week, and his story really impacted our lives. Jose lives with his wife and children in Mazatlan, Mexico. And his move to LA and back is an example of why the peace of Jesus is so needed in our world…
Today is the last of a series of reflections I wrote on our family trip to Mazatlan over the holidays. A little different from the norm and hopefully interesting enough to read…
14 For he himself is our peace, who has made the two groups one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, 15 by setting aside in his flesh the law with its commands and regulations. His purpose was to create in himself one new humanity out of the two, thus making peace, 16 and in one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility. 17 He came and preached peace to you who were far away and peace to those who were near. 18 For through him we both have access to the Father by one Spirit.
19 Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and strangers, but fellow citizens with God’s people and also members of his household.
14 Porque Cristo es nuestra paz: de los dos pueblos ha hecho uno solo, derribando mediante su sacrificio el muro de enemistad que nos separaba, 15 pues anuló la ley con sus mandamientos y requisitos. Esto lo hizo para crear en sí mismo de los dos pueblos una nueva humanidad al hacer la paz, 16 para reconciliar con Dios a ambos en un solo cuerpo mediante la cruz, por la que dio muerte a la enemistad. 17 Él vino y proclamó paz a ustedes que estaban lejos y paz a los que estaban cerca. 18 Pues por medio de él tenemos acceso al Padre por un mismo Espíritu.
19 Por lo tanto, ustedes ya no son extraños ni extranjeros, sino conciudadanos de los santos y miembros de la familia de Dios.
I don’t always know how one crosses over from polite banter into authentic and significant conversation. Sometimes it just happens, and our experience with Jose was just that. Surprising authentic and significant.
He shared that he moved with his family to LA last year, with the hope and promise of a better life and a brighter future for his children. Now, he is back in Mazatlan. He believes Mazatlan is a better place to live than the land of promise and opportunity north of the border. We asked why Jose came back.
It was truly sad to listen to, as Jose shared in decent, yet broken English, how he and his family were the target of terrible racism in America. He actually didn’t even know the words to use to fully label it. He simply shared the looks and the slurs and the go-back-to-where-you-came-from mentality of immigrants whose only difference from Jose was the number of years or generations their families had already been Stateside.
These anti-immigration racist sentiments are often a matter and product of simple timing and our sin nature… it’s shameful.
And so Jose, feeling truly hated by his neigbours, brought his family back to Mazatlan to continue a life which, by any accounts, is not easy. It is, however, more predictable and less hostile. Jose and his family are able to live in peace and harmony in their own land, and such blessings matter much to all of us.
We gave Jose some Canadian stickers and a package of pencils for his children. And then I gave him a verse which I couldn’t get off my mind. I wrote it down on a coaster for him in Spanish. Efesios 2:14-19.
It was Christmas Day evening and it was our last night to sit at his bar and share laughs with strangers and new-found friends. It’s a different way to spend Christmas, that’s for sure, and still Baby Jesus was there.
Somehow, our connection with Jose brought us right back to the manger and the cross, where Jesus came into the world and died on the cross, first to show us God’s love and how to love, and then to pave the way for the death of sin and the rising up of peace.
The Prince of Peace died for the sins Jose suffered in Los Angeles.
And so, when the time was right, I said, “Jose, when you shared with us that you encountered hatred and racism when you took your family to LA, and that you brought them back here for a better life in Mazatlan, it made me think of these verses from the Bible. I hope you will go home and look it up on the Internet to read it. It explains that Jesus died on the cross to make a way for peace to exist between different people, and for the lines of hostility to be broken down. I am looking forward to the day when it becomes reality for all of us in the world through Jesus.”
Jose took the coaster and shook my hand. And then he walked away carefully folded the coaster several times and inserted in deep in to his wallet. We hope to stay in touch with Jose, and hope even more that he will come to understand the peace of Jesus. There is no room for racism or hostility toward other people groups in our world.
We can all be God’s children together through his son Jesus, who died to remove the barriers and make one new humanity…