Last Sunday I shared some thoughts regarding refugees with our church family. We were examining Pilate’s wife’s appeal on behalf of Jesus when she said, “Don’t have anything to do with that innocent man” (Matthew 27:19). Pilate’s wife was “suffering a great deal” as a result of a dream she had about Jesus.
The plight of refugees came to mind because they are innocent in their circumstances. No, they are not sinless, and yes, some of them have probably made some bad choices that have made matters worse. I feel certain there are also those who attempt to enter our country as refugees who seek to do harm. But, as followers of Jesus, we can’t just bury our heads in the sand and ignore the refugee challenge because of these possibilities. We also should resist characterizing refugees as wolves in sheep’s clothing who are nothing but a drain on our society.
Allow me to restate a simple philosophy that helps us understand our Christian calling as it relates to the potential risks refugees pose to our country. In the Bible, we are told to honor government authorities because God has placed them over us and charged them with protecting us from bad people (1 Peter 2:12-14). This doesn’t prohibit Christians from involvement in securing their homeland. If any of us wish to participate in this way, I believe God will honor our efforts.
However, as those who have a higher calling, we have a special responsibility to our world. Christ has commanded us to love our enemies, care for the hurting, and show compassion toward the unfortunate. I don’t believe this is incompatible with government’s role. While no system is perfect, Christians should live under the general assumption the refugees they meet have submitted to the legal processes necessary to gain entry into our country. I am not so naïve as to think this is always the case, and certainly no one should turn a blind eye to something that doesn’t seem right. But my main point is that a believer’s job is to show Christ’s love, not withhold it because he is suspicious of outsiders.
Here are some reason why reaching out to refugees is good for us all:
It is always good (perhaps I should say wise, necessary, eternally important) to be obedient to Christ’s command (Matthew 25:31-46). Jesus didn’t just ask us to care for the needs of people who are like us, or even people who like us. I believe Jesus directed us in this way because He didn’t want us to ever forget we are fundamentally paupers who have been made rich by His grace. We aren’t as self-made as we think. Not long ago I saw a Facebook post demeaning refugees because they couldn’t be trusted and were only here to take needed resources from our loved ones. I was shocked because I recalled a time when the person who created the post contacted our church family for benevolent help with the shadow of bankruptcy hanging overhead. God told Abraham (Genesis 12:2) he was going to bless him so he could be a blessing and Jesus (Matthew 10:8) told His disciples to share grace freely because they had received it freely. Following Jesus’ command to care for those in need, keeps us from forgetting where we have come from. We were once all refugees of sin in search of a haven of rest.
When we show compassion in the name of Jesus, we lead people to salvation. I am not a proponent of a “social gospel” where we care for people in our community without any mention of sin and salvation. Caring for people’s needs and omitting the gospel is like giving someone pain medication but refusing to remove a cancer that is the source of the problem. However, when we love in Jesus’ name and proclaim Him, our compassion softens hearts, reduces suspicions and paves the way for grace (1 Peter 3:25).
When we care for refugees the world sees Jesus in His church. The church is the body of Christ on earth. When we collectively reach out to a people group with His love, the world notices. Perhaps the world is not shocked to see us caring for those less fortunate. After all, that’s what they expect the church to do. But others will notice if we turn up our nose at those who are different and deny grace. We remember the Good Samaritan who cared for a dying man on the side of the road, but we also remember the priest and Levite who passed by him. When we attack refugees verbally, and toss God’s name in for good measure, the world is disgusted (James 2:8).
Are refugees in our community a concern? Yes. But when our concern for the things others might take from us is greater than our concern for what Christ might be calling us to do, we need to do some soul-searching.
Remember, once we were lumped in a broad category as well. We were the “world.”
“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16)