This is a post for all of my American Christian friends. It is not for U.S. government policy makers. I do not know the best solution for the Syrian refugee crisis. I do not have the same responsibilities as you do. This is for everyone who wants to make his voice heard, but has no actual say in what will happen. If you are a Christian and a U.S. government official, I pray you will have God’s wisdom in making your decisions.
I write this because I cannot believe some of the things I have read concerning the refugee crisis. I have been shocked at the attitude displayed by American Christians over this matter and, frankly, I am embarrassed by them. I live in a setting where there are few Americans, so we are usually judged by what people hear in the news and read on issues such as this.
Here are some things I wish to avoid in this post:
- America’s role in the world, the “shining city on a hill,” a “Christian” nation
- The theology, goals, or tactics of radical Islamists
- The politics of the Middle East
- The statistics of radical to moderate Muslims
- The identity and status of Syrian refugees
I believe that all American Christians need to consider three things concerning this refugee situation with Syria (or any other nation, for that matter).
1. Your Identity
Who are you? Who were you first and who are you most? You were first an American. Then one day you became a Christian. Today you live as both an American and a Christian. Yet each of you must decide which you are ultimately - for there will be times when the values of an American and the values of a Christian collide and you will have to choose which set of values will overrule the other. One must overrule, or else you will end up with some strange mixture of values that is neither truly Christian nor truly American.
It has been said that we are dual citizens. We are citizens of the City of God and citizens of the City of Man. The Bible teaches, though, that our ultimate allegiance must be to God and to his Son, by whose teachings we live. When the apostles’ government directly commanded them to go against their mandate from Jesus, they answered, “We must obey God rather than men” (Acts 5:29).
Is your view of the Syrian refugee crisis shaped more by being an American or by being a Christian?
2. Your Priorities
Which is more important to you - safety or the souls of men? Is it more important to keep yourself, your family, your neighbors, your country safe and healthy and secure? Or is it more important to minister to lost souls in need, to love them, and to provide for any of their needs that you are able to meet?
Jesus made it clear what his priorities were. “The Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost” (Luke 19:10). “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I came not to call the righteous, but sinners” (Mark 2:17). He did not place his own physical safety above the spiritual needs of men. He often put himself directly into harm’s way to save the souls of men.
3. Your Responsibilities
Whom ought we to protect - ourselves alone or all victims of evil whom we are able to help? Are we to defend ourselves at all costs or may we be vulnerable and able to be taken advantage of? Should we help the refugees directly and personally or should we just allow the government to take care of them while we faithfully pay our taxes?
Each of these three things will be answered differently by Americans and by Christians.
The American is firstly American. He follows the laws of the land, cares about the future of his country, perhaps serves in its military, votes and voices his opinion, and always seeks America’s benefit ahead of the rest of the world. His priorities reflect his patriotism. America’s enemies should be kept out and should even be destroyed in their homelands. All immigrants to this country must come to benefit the nation. They must contribute to receive its benefits. The safety of our nation and its citizens is our government’s first priority. No immigration crisis should be allowed to threaten the internal safety of our people. We pity the other nations of the world for their problems, but they are their own problems. Any aid or assistance that we give to other nations is only to promote our own status as a global leader and world superpower. Our responsibilities are to protect ourselves and our people. We will defend ourselves and our property at all costs.
The Christian is firstly Christian. He follows the teaching and the example of Jesus. His loyalties lie in the City of God, even if that conflicts with the interests of the City of Man. His priority is the souls of men. He has been rescued from an eternity of punishment for his sins and he knows that his purpose on earth is to help rescue others as well. He will place the souls of men above his own safety, his own country, his own family. He sees himself as an extension of the hands, eyes, mouth, feet, and heart of Jesus. He will risk all in order to reach men. His responsibilities extend to all mankind - any human being that he can serve in the name of Jesus. He makes himself vulnerable and perhaps is taken advantage of by wicked men, yet he suffers for the sake of the gospel. He is not content to allow a government to meet the physical needs of others, but insists on a personal involvement. He gives of his resources, he opens his home, he shares his life with those in need - perhaps even those who hate him and wish him harm. He is driven by the words of Jesus: “Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you” (Matthew 5:44). “You shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Matthew 22:39). “Which of these three, do you think, proved to be a neighbor… ‘The one who showed him mercy…’ You go, and do likewise” (Luke 10:36-37). The Christian follows the spirit of God’s law to Israel: “[God] executes justice for the fatherless and the widow, and loves the sojourner, giving him food and clothing. Love the sojourner, therefore, for you were sojourners in the land of Egypt” (Deuteronomy 10:18-19). “When a stranger sojourns with you in your land, you shall not do him wrong. You shall treat the stranger who sojourns with you as the native among you, and you shall love him as yourself, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God” (Leviticus 19:33-34).
So it comes down to your identity. If you are first an American, keep the refugees out. Bar the gates. Raise the drawbridge. Shut the windows. Lock the doors. Call out the guard. The risk is too great. But if you are first a Christian, welcome them. Minister to them. Serve them. Love them. Put yourself at risk. You can’t lose anyway. “For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it” (Matthew 16:25).
As it stands now, the United States government is planning to allow Syrian refugees into the country. Instead of arguing about it, being afraid of it, and opposing it angrily, HELP THEM!!! Or else risk standing before your Lord one day and hearing Jesus say, “I was a stranger and you did not welcome me… Truly, I say to you, as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me” (Matthew 25:43,45).
One final thought - There are probably none of us who could pack up and move to Syria to share the gospel with the Muslims there. Instead, God is using a crisis - as he often does - to involuntarily move people out of a restricted land and into a land where they can be free to give their lives to Jesus. American Christians, don’t miss one of the greatest mission opportunities of our time! God is bringing thousands of lost souls to you.