Welcoming refugees: moving forward in faith

Since the Paris terrorist attacks I have not been surprised by the shift in American opinion over admitting Syrian refugees nor the corresponding political posturing that both feeds and responds to the fears of many.  What surprises me most is the response of many who identify as Bible believing Christians where believing we should welcome  Syrian refugees places you squarely in the minority.  Many of my brothers and sisters in Jesus agree  Christian churches are called to serve as the hands and feet of Jesus in the midst of a messed up world and God desires Jesus-followers to live as ambassadors for Christ- representing His interests and not our own.   Many of us agree our lives have been redefined by who Jesus is, by His example and teaching,  and what He accomplished through His crucifixion and resurrection. We even agree following Jesus means taking His commands to heart- listening and responding to what Jesus taught. Unfortunately what Jesus clearly taught and modeled remains alarmingly absent from many of our conversations.praying-hands-on-scripture

One word that I’ve heard since I was a young child that defines how Christians should respond to Jesus and His commands is faith Faith that His way is best. Faith He will give us the strength to obey.  Faith that what we do now matters in eternity. How we respond in real life and in the midst of real circumstances says everything about our faith.

Consider some of Jesus’ core teachings:

You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.  For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have?
Matthew 5:43-46, Sermon on the Mount
Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink?  And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?  And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’
Matthew 25:37-40, The Final Judgement
A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and he fell among robbers, who stripped him and beat him and departed, leaving him half dead. Now by chance a priest was going down that road, and when he saw him he passed by on the other side. So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side.
But a Samaritan, as he journeyed, came to where he was, and when he saw him, he had compassion. He went to him and bound up his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he set him on his own animal and brought him to an inn and took care of him. And the next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper, saying, ‘Take care of him, and whatever more you spend, I will repay you when I come back.’ Which of these three, do you think, proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell among the robbers?”He said, “The one who showed him mercy.” And Jesus said to him, “You go, and do likewise.”
Luke 10:30-37, The Parable of the Good Samaritan
It’s easy in these circumstances to think through the lens of national identity or begin by considering our own comfort and security.   We can quickly turn God’s blessings into barriers to following Jesus.  We sometimes even attach a scripture to something we dearly want to protect with the end result being our identity and security being rooted in something other than Jesus and our values looking very different than what Jesus taught and modeled.   As Pastor Adam Brewer stated in a recent blog post:
If we listen, maybe we can hear the voice of our hearts’ idols speaking during this debate on whether or not to receive refugees. These idols are articulate, biblically-literate, and applauded by the public, yet they are not to be trusted.
I’ve heard many times the term Christian means little Christ. It was a term (probably derisive) coined by those watching the first century church in Antioch.  The surrounding city noted  these people belonged to Jesus.  We belong to Jesus.  We are His family, His body, His bride, His ambassadors.  It’s worth asking : is your community, our nation, and this world seeing a picture of who Jesus is and what He’s about by watching us right now?
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