I have watched over the past several days as people have given their thoughts and opinions about receiving Syrian refugees. And while I have tried to listen and read carefully all that is being said, I am concerned with the xenophobia, fear, and ugliness that some have expressed. I, too, want to weigh in on the topic. I want to address the issue from a strictly Biblical point of view, to those who sincerely call themselves Christians. I also am writing this as someone who goes to Paris about three times a year. Unlike tourists who visit Paris, I spend time with people who live and work in the city. I have connected with some of the immigrant community there. I also want to mention that I have friendships with fellow pastors who are working with Syrian refugees in Lebanon, Israel, Jordan, and Germany. And while I’m sure that there are many who understand much more than I about many of these things, I believe I have more to share than many who are spouting off their opinions, including many politicians.
First, let me say, that I agree that a strong military response is needed to fight ISIS. However, we are foolish to think that a military response should be our sole response. I also would agree with many who believe that our current President has contributed to the mess that we find ourselves in today through his passivity. I cannot understand why he has not given leadership to this unfolding crisis. The results have included a radical Islamic state that is causing chaos all over the Middle East and beyond, over four million Syrians who have been forced to leave their country, the genocide of the Christian community in that part of the world, and a dangerous ideology that is reaching millions of young Muslims around the world. This evil, hate-filled ideology must be answered by something greater and more appealing. One of the problems is that there are millions of young Muslims who are confused, depressed, and hopeless. They are without hope because they live in a world that is passing them by. Often there are no jobs. No future. So when militant Islamists tell them they are living in the last days, and that the last great war is at hand (aimed at killing the infidels–Jews and Christians especially), they are being offered something much more appealing than the sinkhole they are currently struggling against.
We are hearing much about these “radicalized Islamists.” My question is where are the “radicalized Christians”? I am talking about people who are willing to deny themselves to serve the purposes of God–about Christians who are willing to share the good news of Jesus Christ, the words of eternal life, and the hope that can only be found in Him, regardless of the cost. I am talking about loving people with a supernatural agape love, a love in which the world will know we are His disciples. …..Not people who dislike being inconvenienced, who avoid suffering for Christ’s sake, who want to feel safe, who don’t want their rich comfortable lives to be tampered with. In these days, only an ideology like the one Jesus Christ gave to His disciples can defeat radical Islam. Where are these radical Christians?
I am not sure what to do about the millions of Syrian refugees. There are some difficult issues to be addressed. But I do know that closing our hearts to them will not open the door for God to give us His guiding wisdom. Our position must be one of exploring how to meet these needs, not putting out cute little sound bites that sound tough but completely lack the compassion of Jesus. One presidential candidate said this week, “I would not allow a three year old orphan from Syria into our country!” I can’t help but think of the words of Jesus:
Then He will also say to those on His left, “Depart from Me, accursed ones, into the eternal fire which has been prepared for the devil and his angels; for I was hungry, and you gave Me nothing to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me nothing to drink; I was a stranger, and you did not invite Me in, naked, and you did not clothe Me; sick, and in prison, and you did not visit Me.” Then they themselves also will answer, “Lord, when did we see You hungry, or thirsty, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not take care of You?” Then He will answer them, “Truly, I say to you, to the extent that you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to Me.” Matthew 25:41-45
I advocate that we look at all options addressing the needs of these refugees….all four million of them. Perhaps we need to fine-tune our process to bring refugees into our country. But let’s start with a posture that we want to do something! We just need to figure out the best way. Just because President Obama is for bringing in some of these refugees, does not mean we should be against it! That is plain immature. Canada is opening their doors. And yesterday, French President Hollande, has opened the door for France to bring in 30,000 (that is three times what we are talking about for our country). Should not the United States be taking the lead in coming up with solutions to address the refugee problem? Or, is our problem that we really don’t care for these refugees?
I stated earlier that I have friends working among the Syrian refugees. They all are declaring that there has never been the openness to the Gospel among Muslims as there has been with the Syrians. After all, they are very disillusioned with their religion. God is supernaturally giving them dreams. What does that tell us? God is for them; He cares deeply for every one of them! Many are asking questions. Just this past Friday, the same day as the terror attacks in Paris, I received a letter from a pastor friend in Germany pleading for prayer. They have had 30 Syrian refugees visiting their small church in the past couple of weeks. They also just started an Alpha class for 14 Iraqi immigrants. They are hungry to know about the Gospel! My friend is asking that we please pray that God would open their eyes to the Truth! (By the way, this is a ministry that we provide a financial and legal covering for here in the States).
But it is not just the Syrians who are open to the Lord. Just today, I heard from a brother that I know well who works in the suburbs of Paris, of how so many Muslims from all backgrounds have a growing desire to hear more about Jesus Christ. He tells of one Muslim man who has been asking questions. After the recent attacks, he has decided to follow Jesus. Do we not realize this opportunity to reach peoples who have been previously closed to the gospel? Or, do we even really care?
Many Christians have been praying for decades for the Lord to open the hearts of the most unreached of this world. Remember when many of us prayed for years for the “10/40 Window,” where the world’s most unreached peoples of the world live? The church across America prayed for doors to open that we could enter into their countries to share the gospel. And now God is bringing them by the millions into places like Europe. Yes, there is a window of opportunity today that the Church has perhaps not had since the first century. But it means that we must we respond accordingly. In the Kingdom of God, we have been equipped not with the weapons of the flesh, but with the powerful truth of the gospel, and God’s love, and the compassion of our Lord Jesus. This is how we fight a war that is first and foremost, a spiritual war. This is how the enemy will be defeated.
Please, brothers and sisters, I urge you to put aside the xenophobia, the fear, and the self-protection. Embrace the boldness, the compassion, and the zeal to share the good news with all peoples, including the Syrians. The world (including the unreached peoples everywhere) will know we are His disciples by our agape love.
Mike and Judy