We Are Strangers: The Christian’s Priorities in the Refugee Crisis

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Trending Topic: #WelcomeRefugees

I was strongly tempted not to blog about this topic. I really didn’t want to—nor feel the need to after so many have already posted about it. But frankly, of all the current issues I’ve discussed thus far, this one strikes home the closest for me. This is an issue I know and care a lot about. Plenty of people have stated their opinions on Facebook or in articles—in fact, I deeply respect several of the perspectives I’ve read. Most notably, Kevin DeYoung’s piece in The Gospel Coalition, Russell Moore’s piece on the Washington Post, and David Crabb on Desiring God. They all take different perspectives that are helpful and convicting. Though I am by no means on the same intellectual plane as these gentlemen (not to mention, the same popularity plane), I do want to briefly assert my position, based not so much on a full understanding of everything going on…but on my personal experience with Syrian refugees.

Yes, I’ve met some. Unlike vitriolic politicians who are quick to jump on one bandwagon or another, I have actually sat down and talked with Syrian refugees. Unlike some of my friends on Facebook who are quick to post their opinions in CAPITAL LETTERS, I have actually discussed the horrors of the Syrian civil war with someone who’s been in it. And based on those conversations, I have a few things to share on how a Christian should engage this issue.

  1. I am not a politician, and thus my priority is not to make policy.

I don’t have all the answers—I’m not an elected official who can research all the data (or send an aide to do it). I don’t have access to all the facts of how many refugees can feasibly be let in, how likely they are to be terrorists, and on and on and on.

And that’s the point! We’re not politicians! At least, I highly doubt any of my readers are politicians (although you’re welcome to keep reading, Mr. President). We are in no position to make decisions on whether or not to allow refugees into our country—and we likely never will be (sorry to crush your dreams). We have no authority to decide how many and at what time. We cannot change the vetting process. That does not mean we should not offer suggestions or have an informed opinion. But we must realize that we simply do not have all the information. And even if we did, we do not have the power to change anything. Yes, we can vote, particularly in a primary, and make our opinions on this subject heard—coming up very soon! So what we believe about this issue does matter. But we still will not be running for President ourselves (cancel that announcement party!). We will not be signing the bill. We’re just citizens—no, more than that, we’re Christian citizens of a great nation.

But above all, we’re citizens of a “better country.”

America is a great nation, yes. But we’re by no means a perfect one. I think far too often, we get so wrapped up in American interests and American problems and American priorities that we forget the heavenly ones. We’re too focused on stating how we (or our favorite candidate) would solve the problem that we forget to consider what the Bible says.

  1. I am a citizen of America, and thus one of my biblical priorities is for my nation’s welfare.

Here’s a challenge—name a Scripture that says we are to be focused about the welfare of our current country. Give me some references to having patriotism and supporting our country. A bit more challenging than perhaps you thought, right? I struggled to think of one—at least one that is not taken out of context. Sure, the Bible talks plenty about Israelite patriotism, but does it say that New Testament believers ought to be concerned about their nation state’s welfare?

Lest you think I’m becoming unpatriotic, let me state the one passage I think does refer to supporting your country. In Jeremiah 29, the prophet writes a letter to those who have already been carried off captive in Babylon. He tells them not to think they’ll be coming home any time soon—they still have got 70 years! Rather, they were to focus on being the best people they could be where they were. And this includes his statement in verse 7: “But seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the Lord on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare.”

That’s how the Christian is supposed to care for his country. We are “not of this world.” Our citizenship is in Heaven, Paul writes in Philippians 3:20—thus, we are “exiles.” Our primary responsibility is not to promote America. But it is a good Christian virtue to follow in the example of other “exiles” and seek the welfare of our country and pray for it. To support its troops. To pray for its success. To care about its protection from terrorists. Yes, even to pay your taxes—a highly Biblical concept!

But let us not overemphasize what the Bible does not spend much time on. Yes, we see a Scriptural priority to care about our country. But the Bible gives us as even greater priority—one that overrides all others!

  1. I am a citizen of heaven, and thus my overriding priority is to make more citizens of it!

Perhaps the simplest form of this priority is found in Matthew 28:19-20—go! Go and tell the world about the good news of Jesus. Make disciples of everyone you meet.

We are indeed exiles from our true home—refugees, one could even say. We have not fled from an oppressive government, but evil—our own evil—has pushed us away from perfection with God in the garden to wander this pitiless planet. Until we reach that real perfect home once again through Christ’s atonement and return.

So put yourself in the shoes of these refugees! God encouraged such a perspective among the Israelites when He gave them commands concerning the “stranger”—passages being used perhaps too heavily these days. Leviticus 19:34 reads: “You shall treat the stranger who sojourns with you as the native among you, and you shall love him as yourself, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God.”

The Bible clearly speaks of compassion for the stranger or foreigner who comes to your country. So, whatever you think about the policy of letting refugees in, you must at least admit that, as a Christian, you must show compassion to the refugees who are already here.

We have no power to kick them out. Our only power is to love them. Maybe some of them are indeed terrorists in disguise. It’s highly probable, in fact! But that does not change our priority AT ALL! Whether or not the government lets none in or two million in, our response to the Syrian refugees we meet is to be the same—share with all of them the love of Jesus!

All that being said, here’s my opinion on the subject, for what it’s worth…

Don’t just react to news stories on conservative sites—or liberal ones, for that matter! The question is not as cut and dry as you may think. Don’t react so hastily as to ban all refugees. That, I think, is clearly too radical a position, though many have taken it. There are differences of opinion that fall well within Romans 14 on how many to let in, what type of screening they should undergo, and even whether to let in certain types at all (like young Muslim men). My opinion has even changed in light of the Paris attacks to be a lot less open about accepting all of them. However, to argue that we should not allow Christian refugees in is ludicrous (although politically, if we let them in, we have to let anyone in). Similarly, the argument that we should not allow orphans under the age of 10 in is at the best misinformed. At the worst, dramatically unlike the Savior who “let the children” come to Him. What a golden opportunity to get these children away from Muslim influences and place them into Christian homes where they can hear about Jesus! There are many Christian organizations doing just this—join them, as you are able! Perhaps God would call you to adopt an orphan or house an old widow. These people are not terrorists—yes, some may argue they could still be trained to do so.

Migrant boy lies on the floor while waiting to leave Hungary outside a train station in Budapest

But come on now!? You’re in more danger of a shark attack than a Syrian orphan blowing you up!

Here’s a concept—have some compassion! I’m so sick and tired of hearing the quote all over Facebook: “To the people so eager to let the Syrian refugees into America: why don’t you host them at your house then?”

I will! I would if I could! No, not just any Syrian refugee—I understand the dangers and would never risk my family’s security. However, I have FRIENDS who are Syrian refugees, whom I would have at my house were they to come here. Why? Because I know them. I’ve spent time with them. I’ve developed trust with them and know they’re not terrorists. I’ve shared the Gospel with them—gotten them to read the Bible!

If more Christians spent more time witnessing to Syrian refugees and listening to their stories and befriending them, Facebook would be filled less with the word “security” and more with the word “love.” There are legitimate concerns that need to be addressed about security that many government officials do not seem to grasp. So do your research. Make an informed choice of candidate come your primary/caucus time. Well and good.

But keep your priorities straight. Make your priorities the Bible’s priorities.

Don’t let your love for America drown out your love for the lost. Jesus certainly never did…

-M@

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