Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Would Jesus take in Syrian refugees?

"Would Jesus take in Syrian refugees" was the provocative title of a recent Washington Post article and a question definitely worth wrestling with. There is a lot of buzz among politicians calling for the U.S. to stop receiving all Syrian refugees, all Muslim refugees, or all refugees period depending on the state you live in and many Christians tend to agree. ISIS with its evil ideology had a minor "win" in Paris, but they going to have a much greater "win" if this situation starts causing Christians to hate all Muslims, to be fearful of Syrians, to mistrust all immigrants' motives, to back away from compassion/mercy, and ultimately to focus on self rather than Christ.

I have seen people many people on social media quoting "be wise as serpents and innocent as doves"; "anyone who does not take care of their household is worse off than the pagans"; "but if you do wrong, be afraid, for rulers do not bear the sword for no reason"; and plenty of Old Testament references along the lines of "Who will rise up for me against the wicked? Who will take a stand for me against evildoers?" Many of these passages are being used to help people justify their position of not wanting any more foreigners coming into the country and some even advocate going back to Old Testament times or the Crusades to take out the enemy in this "holy war".
(actual picture making the rounds on social media by some Christians)

On the other side of the debate are the many verses along the lines of: "The stranger who lives as a foreigner with you shall be to you as the native-born among you, and you shall love him as yourself" "Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you" "I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not clothe me, sick and in prison and you did not visit me." "Mourn with those who mourn." The people sharing this perspective want to let compassion and love for the vulnerable trump their nationalism and to follow in the footsteps of Christ to love the "least of these".

So, what is a Christian to do? What do we do with this biblical tension of "Hate what is evil....cling to what is good"? What do I do as an American citizen whose first allegiance is to Christ and the kingdom of God before it is to my own country or political party? How do I hate the sin and love the sinner? How do I hold justice in one hand and mercy in the other? How can I tell if the motivation for the positions I am taking and my actions is "fear" or "wisdom/discernment"? Am I living for my safety and security or for God's name and His glory? Can I embrace foreigners and still be concerned for the well-being of my children and their children? Is it possible to hate ISIS ideology but love the people that have been deceived by it? What would Jesus do?

Mother Teresa's quote rings true biblically and seems true from experience as I have served the "least of these" in many countries. But then I turn on the news or see my social media feed saying not to be naive and comparing ISIS tactics to the trojan horse which will ultimately turn to the deconstruction of this country. Is that refugee "Jesus in disguise" or "ISIS in disguise"? I'm confused! I do know that I've been working with refugees for about six years now and know that the screening process is very thorough (see video below) and that not a single refugee in the entire 35 year history of the U.S. resettlement program has ever even been arrested for planning a domestic act of terrorism, much less indicted as such. I'm not advocating for naivety and agree that no one who poses a danger to the safety of a community should be given refugee status. But what if the best way for us to potentially help prevent another atrocity on American or European soil...whether it is a Columbine shooter or a suicide bomber.... is for the church in season and out of season to "love our neighbor" and "share Good News" with them.

Some argue we need to keep all the refugees out because we don't know which are the good ones and which are the bad ones. "If you had ten grapes and two of them were poisoned, would you eat any of them?" Makes sense, but I'm guessing the majority of the people using that logic probably love their right to bear arms and would push back on the people that say "we don't know which people are crazy and which ones aren't so no one should have guns". Let's continue to push for reform and debate on gun control and immigration but let's drop the blanket statements, generalizations, and everything that provokes fear and hate as there is no place for that in Jesus' kingdom. I'm going to take all of my mixed feelings and emotions on the topic and check them against Scripture to ask the Lord for his heart and guidance. It seems like a better use of time than the hours I have spent on social media and other news sources researching the topic. His Word is doing a better job of bringing comfort, peace, reality, and hope. It really is GOOD NEWS! Let's share it with others.