Syrian Refugees: One Christian's Response
Religion and politics can be devastating to family relationships. You're not suppose to talk about either, let alone mix them. I just recently got in an argument with one of my sons (and wife) over the proper Christian response to the Syrian Refugee Crisis. It angered me that Christians went straight to social media in support of bringing the refugees into the country and any other response is un-compassionate and uncaring.
It is my contention that a government's primary role is to keep the citizens within its borders safe and secure. Compassion to those outside the border can occur in ways other than immigration. When there are realistic concerns for safety it is the governments responsibility to secure its borders (Romans 13).
The argument is that widows, orphans, and oppressed foreigners are worth the "slight" risk. As Christians we are to encourage our leaders to a compassionate response. Zechariah 7 exhorts Israel not to oppress widows, orphans, and foreigners among them, and so should we. But to apply Zachariah to this situation is a miss application of the passage. The heart of the passage is compassion, yes, but it is to those within their borders. In fact the Old Testament speaks more about expelling the people of the land so that their false beliefs would not be a thorn for Israel (Joshua 23). Israel's inability to drive out the inhabitants resulted in the foreigners being stumbling blocks to the people of Israel and leading them away from God.
Even if the mass of refugees are not terrorists, their beliefs and politics will be a stumbling block to American culture and law. Look at what's happening in Europe. It is the responsibility of the US government to protect the constitution of the United States, not embrace the multitudes. At this point proponents will point to past immigrations of people fleeing war and oppression, especially those from Europe. Most, not all, were willing to assimilate into American culture, learn English, and commit themselves to the laws under the constitution. It is debated if the present refugees are willing to do the same.
The problem with American Christians is that we live within a participatory government. What we believe does, and should, have an impact on what the government does. So Jesus' admonition to love your enemy, pray for those who persecute you, and do good to those who would harm you (Matt. 5) should direct our influence for government action toward the refugees. Who is my neighbor?
Of course the good Samaritan (Luke 25) didn't take the hurt man home. He gave money and resources for his care, but left him in the care of an inn keeper. We must apply both sides; compassion and caution. This is the conundrum of the Christian life in America. Personal responsibility and our responsibility to participate in our government. Where do the two meet, and what is the best way to accomplish this?
I was reading this passage today (Matthew 15:21-28)
And Jesus went away from there and withdrew to the district of Tyre and Sidon. And behold, a syrophonican woman from the region came out and was crying, "Have mercy on me, O Lord, Son of David; my daughter is severely oppressed by a demon." But he did not answer her a word. And his disciples came and begged him, saying, "Send her away, for she is crying out after us." He answered, "I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel." But she came and knelt before him, saying, "Lord, help me." And he answered, "it is not right to take the children's bread and throw it to the dogs." She said, "Yes, Lord, yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters' table." Then Jesus answered her, "O woman, great is your faith! Be it done for you as you desire." And her daughter was healed instantly.
- Tyre and Sidon were in a Roman district outside the borders of Israel. So Jesus had entered the woman's home. She was Syrian, or at least from the Roman Province that included todays Syria.
- She came to Jesus knowing that he was different and could meet her request. Her daughter was possessed (a terrorist?).
- The disciples understood the law and tried to get Jesus to send her away. Jesus, knowing the law, addressed their concern by asking the woman a question. "Should I do anything for the dogs outside the borders of my country and the Law?"
- The woman acknowledges her position as an outsider of Israel, but even that dogs receive some mercy.
- Jesus sees her words and behavior as faith in him, and casts out the demon.
What struck me was the nationality of the woman. Jesus plays along with the politics of his followers, but never forgets the need of the person. Her greater need was to see and acknowledge Jesus as Lord. The daughter was secondary. It was a result of her faith that he expressed compassion.
Jesus' compassion flowed to those outside of Israel, the Centurion, the Samaritan woman, the demonic and many more. After his ascension he sent his disciple to the whole world to bring the Gospel to the lost. It is his life that we should immolate.
But what does that mean practically? The answer can come in two forms:
- If you believe the refugees need more scrutiny before entry into the country, how can you personally be involve in compassion towards those in need. It is too easy to say we shouldn't when we are called to reach them for Christ.
- If you believe the refugees should be brought into the country, how will you personally be involved in reaching them for Christ. It is too easy to say the government should bring them in, but if we don't reach them for Christ they will be a thorn to the American way of life.
To take either position without personal involvement is to be a voice calling others to do what you are not willing to do. It is abrogating your Christian responsibility as you castigate others for having a different opinion.
It is important for me to make this point. Muslims are some of the most gracious, caring, and loving people. I have friends and a Bahraini daughter who are Muslim, and I love them dearly. However, we don't believe the same things. Jesus is still the only way to the Father. Salvation is only through Him. To believe otherwise is to live in darkness, and that darkness will overwhelm communities and countries if we don't declare and live out our faith.
I am thankful that my son and his wife have gone to the Middle East to be a light for Christ there. If America is not to be overwhelmed by the darkness then we need to actively be involved in sharing the good news of Jesus to everyone, legal, illegal, refugee, and citizen.
To the point, I am for compassion with caution. The US is a shining city on a hill. Let us not allow evil to overcome us, let our love extinguish the darkness of evil. I'm Just Saying.