DHD: 6 takeaways from the Syrian refugee issue
I am following a similar pattern to last week’s DHD – one overall topic with six aspects. This time it is on the Syrian refugee issue – because I KNOW you haven’t read enough commentary on it.
I am troubled, friends. I really am. Thousands upon thousands of Syrian natives are displaced, frightened and in great need of care and in greater need of the Gospel.
There are also international security threats, real threats. Undisclosed terrorists have made it known they intend to attack and kill many more people, and they demonstrated in Paris just a week ago how serious their intentions are.
I can understand how the threats may not seem real or how someone could be numb to this horrible intention, thousands of miles away, as I look outside my office window with the sun shining on this November afternoon and cars just drive by, like a normal weekday scenario.
I can also relate to my friends who want to do anything and everything to help those in time of need and go with a headstrong desire to care for the multitude of needy expatriates no matter the cost.
Good points also are made by people I respect who realize America is on unsteady grounds and believe a full passage way for this populous group could put our country even further in dire straits.
So what is the solution? How can good, honest, faithful Christians on both sides of this conundrum come to an agreement and do what truly is according to God’s will?
I will share six thoughts with you about the refugee issue. Six perspectives that I have derived after I spent time in pause, prayer and parsing what others have shared.
- I am willing to give myself but not willing to give others
I have been known to do some bold things in my past. A funny story that my friends have enjoyed involves the time I picked up a hitchhiker on my way home from Virginia, as a college student. Not only did I give the hitchhiker a ride, I allowed him to drive my car while I took a nap. Pretty crazy huh?
I would not have trouble going out of my way to help someone, and I have. I don’t have difficulties talking to people I don’t know. I have struck up many conversations with strangers and even provided them support in some situations.
I read a piece from a Christian millennial who said they “don’t get it” when it comes to people’s hesitancy to help the Syrian refugees. The writer said they “don’t get” why Christians don’t want to be like the famous missionary Jim Elliott who was killed by natives in South America.
I can’t answer for everybody regarding the writer’s inquiry, but for me, I would be willing to take the same approach Jim Elliott took. But I don’t believe Jim Elliott’s desire involved sacrificing other people.
I sincerely believe there are multitudes of Syrians who only desire refuge. I also believe the possibilities are great there are wolves among these sheep, and they desire to do great harm. They would want to harm your children, other people in your life and other people you do not know.
I do not intend to belittle your ambition to help the hurting. I have a similar desire, but I want to help while also not abetting harm.
- Protecting others in other lands
Sometime in the future, Lord willing, I am going on a trip. That is all I can share. I have to be vague about this trip for a reason. In fact, somebody who knows about this particular trip might even be nervous reading my vague description because the trip is not to be discussed on social media. It may be possible that I have to remove this from my DHD. If you are able to read this, you were blessed.
So why am I not allowed to share the details of this trip? Would it be because we are ashamed of the people who live where I am going? Are we just going for the sites and don’t care about the people?
Or how about this? What if I believe the people who told me that I am not supposed to talk about this trip ARE being discriminatory? Perhaps I thought I should tell you every single detail in order for you to pray for what I will be doing? After all, you also care about helping people right? And if God wants me to go on this trip, it shouldn’t matter what I tell you. He is going to make it all possible, right?
Yes, I am being silly. But just as the millennial Christian I mentioned earlier offered a snarky perspective of Christians believing of the refugees “We don’t want ya’ll. Have a nice life where you are. We’ll send you some food…” yadda yadda yadda, I think it is only fair to consider my folly in making a point.
There are missionaries in difficult situations. They are where they are because of other work they are doing, but ultimately, they are there to share the Gospel of Jesus Christ where it is not openly permitted to do so. Revealing them and their mission would hinder their work and would put them in danger.
So then, if such is to be handled discreetly and in a reasonable manner in order to not hinder the work of a missionary in another land, why is it so difficult to believe a similar cautious approach would need to be observed here in our country?
- Sensible, more than safe
Once again, I turn to the millennial Christian who writes wanting a response:
“Open up a Bible and make a convincing argument that Jesus wants us all to be safe more than he wants us to reach the lost and help the hurting.”
I may not be able to meet this entire request. Perhaps Jesus does not want us to be “safe,” as the writer debates, but I do know He wants us to be sensible. Jesus said to “be wary as snakes” (Matt. 10:16) which would mean we are not to be vulnerable or gullible, but rather be prudent.
Jesus also advised His disciples to protect themselves, even with weapons (Luke 22:36). I’d say that would be an argument for their safety.
Jesus does want us to reach the lost and help the hurting. Keep in mind, though, Jesus did avoid the crowds at times and took time to be by himself. Again, this is a demonstration of sensibility. He even avoided an angry mob when they tried to throw him off a cliff (Luke 4:29-30). Would this speak to His desire for safety?
The point I am trying to make, more than argue with a Christian young adult, is Jesus demonstrated both compassion and caution during His earthly ministry. We can apply both with how to handle Syrian refugees.
- Proper communication
A point I would make to those who favor a more cautious approach with the Syrian refugees is be sensitive in how you communicate about them, as well as with those who favor a view different from yours. I lean greatly on Russell Moore’s counsel who recently said:
“We can have prudential discussions and disagreements about how to maintain security. What we cannot do is to demagogue the issue, as many politicians are doing right now. An entire generation of those fleeing genocide will be asking if there is an alternative to the toxic religion they’ve seen. Will they hear evangelicals saying ‘Jesus loves you’ or ‘Who then is my neighbor?’ There are massive implications for both answers.”
I also would say I found Mike Huckabee’s remark inappropriate when he said in the aftermath of the Paris attacks that we need to “wake up and smell the falafel.”
Words do matter. How you communicate reveals what is in your heart. Make the effort to speak respectfully to all people, even those of whom you disagree.
- Be the Church, no matter
The quote I shared from Russell Moore is found in a good report from Baptist Press titled “Syrian refugees: balancing compassion & security.”
The BP story also offers remarks from other Southern Baptist leaders, but a key point I got from the story is the Church should take on this issue differently than the government.
More than one said it is the government’s duty to protect American citizens. It is the duty of the Church to show compassion and offer care.
Never turn down the opportunity to share the love of Christ. Serve that person who comes to you be they citizen or immigrant, refugee or vagrant. We may be cautious because the thought of thousands of refugees coming can be overwhelming, but once they are here, serve them, love them and share the Gospel with them.
- Trust God through it all
God is in control. “The steps of a man are established by the Lord, and He delights in his way” (Ps. 37:23).
God is not surprised by this refugee issue. He knows how this will play out. He also desires our prayers for these refugees. He wants us to cry out to Him our concerns and fears of the possible threats.
And whether the Syrians overtake the country or they all convert to Christianity, God’s will shall prevail. Be confident that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called to His purpose (Rom. 8:28).