After putting some thoughts out there on Facebook yesterday, I decided to synthesize them into one blog post. My hope is to encourage the American church to respond to the Syrian refugee crisis in a way that Jesus would lead us.
Here’s where I start from on the question: I am as broken as any Muslim. By sheer grace, I worship a God who loved me and gave himself up for me. The difference between Christians and Muslims should be seen in terms of the graciousness of our God, not in terms of the brokenness of our humanity.
If you don’t agree with that basic statement-that you and I are as broken and stand in need of as much mercy as ANY Muslim, you might not agree with anything else I have to say here.
A question our leaders will have to wrestle with now is this: How many refugees from Syria will we let into the U.S.? It’s a complex question that I hope is answered with both wisdom & mercy.
Whatever decision our leaders make, I hope it is balanced by the statistic released by a conservative news magazine, The Economist, in October of this year: “750,000 refugees have been received into the U.S. since 9/11. Not a single one of these refugees has ever been arrested on domestic terrorism charges.”
This is also not a hypothetical question for the Jackson family: One of my kids recently welcomed a Syrian refugee to their elementary school class here in North Carolina.
Is there a remote threat to the citizens of the U.S. if our government decides to let in more of these 11 million Syrians who have been displaced over the past 4 years? Yes, there is a remote threat to our personal and national security if we allow more Syrians to move into our country.
But, even though that’s the case, I’m still in favor of our nation-after thorough vetting-allowing some of these Syrian people to settle here.
Why? If I were truly needy and homeless, if our government imploded, if terrorists were ruling our land, dropping bombs on my home, my church, near my children would I want to be shown mercy by others? Yes I would. These are the exact circumstances that have forced Syrian refugees to flee their homeland. “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you” would lose its meaning if we decide not to live by it now.
Furthermore, Is there another country on earth where Muslims have a better chance of hearing the Gospel of Jesus than the U.S.? I don’t think there is. If we’re not willing to move to the Middle East for the sake of Christ, should we not then be willing to allow Muslims to move near us? If we answer “no” to us moving there and “no” to them moving here, then what are we saying about the importance of Syrian people hearing and responding to the Gospel?
This is complicated geo-politics. But this is basic Christianity.
While our leaders answer this complex question of how many Syrians can move to the USA, here’s a much more straightforward question we as the church must answer: How many of these Syrian neighbors that our government allows to resettle here am I called to love?
That’s an easy answer regardless of your politics. As Christians, we are called to love ALL of the neighbors God places among us.
Where do I find that in the Bible? Leviticus 19:33-34: “When an alien lives with you in your land, do not mistreat him. The alien living with you must be treated as one of your native-born. Love him as yourself, for you were aliens in Egypt. I am the Lord your God.”
What is one practical way to love your neighbor right now in America? Invite an international neighbor, or a refugee neighbor, or maybe even a Muslim neighbor into your home for Thanksgiving or Christmas.
What an incredible Gospel opportunity we Christians have in this moment of terror. Let’s not waste it away with fear.