(Revised version 9:00 PM)
I hate politics. However as a Christian, we live in a nation with a political system. As citizens of Heaven and the United States, it is both necessary and appropriate to engage in this conversation. We can’t afford not to have our voice heard as Christ-followers. Case in point, how do we respond to President Obama seeking to resettle 10,000 plus Syrian refugees in the United States? If you are following social media, you understand the average Christian is conflicted; in fact, many non-Christians are as well. As Christ-followers, we desire to respond from our biblical worldview, yet we also have a natural desire for protection against all the dangers of ISIS. Many are saying that we must accept the refugees simply because we are Americans – forget the fact that many of us are Christians. So what are we going to do?
Three Principles to Help You Think Through Our Conflict
We recognize that the Bible implores us in relationship to one another to be full of mercy and grace, just as God (Eph 4:32, et.al.). In the Old Testament, Israel was to show mercy to those that were less fortunate and foreigners (Leviticus 23:22). In the New Testament, every Christian is to be known by love (John 13:35), where mercy is just an outworking of love. Paul made it clear that as a follower of Jesus Christ who walks in the Spirit, we are to be kind, have tenderhearted compassion, and forgive one another. Tenderhearted compassion references the deepest love from the heart that flows out of personal sympathy that encourages graciousness toward one another. When we see and hear the plight of the Syrian refugees who are poor and needy, our natural inclination as a follower of Jesus is to love and help provide for them.
We are also Americans. As citizens we have a vested interest in this nation. Our nation isn’t just a landmass or a set of values. Our nation is greater than the sum total of the GNP or that it is “a land of opportunities” for immigrants or anyone else. Our nation is people. We are not just minimally interested in this issue because we see our America…moms, dads, granddads, grandmas, brothers, sisters, husbands, wives, sons, and daughters. We see those people as family, relatives, and neighbors. We group in communities, neighborhoods, towns, cities, regions, and states. We meet together in churches.
In light of what is happening all over the Middle East and in recognition of a president who desires to import at least 10,000 Syrian refugees, it is a subject in which we are very interested. This issue is greater than a mere political conversation. This issue relates to the safety of all of those we consider Americans. Many of whom live in our own homes. We recognize that we do not desire our children or family or neighbors to go to the park, the local school concert, the football game, any athletic event, the grocery store, the church, or anywhere and constantly think that there is a clear and present danger. We detest that the America in which our children live is much less safe than the America we know from our roots. Therefore, we are concerned. We recognize that there is a significant issue in regard to bringing in Syrian refugees into the United States.
Furthermore, we must remember why God gave us government (Rom 13:1-7). Government exists as part of God’s grace – to provide justice and protection of people. Therefore, it is the role of the United States government to protect its citizens. There is a responsibility associated with bringing Syrian refugees, or for that matter any person, to resettle in the United States. The government cannot ignore its primary purpose – justice and protection – nor can we.
So how do we respond?
How do we put these two dissimilar ideas together (mercy and protection) into a worldview that is consistent with each other? How do we as citizens of Heaven and citizens of America live and speak consistently? Here are a couple of ideas to contemplate.
- Our response can be nothing less than full of love and full of mercy. Our love must be directed toward fellow Americans and toward fellow image bearers of God. Therefore we have a response of love toward our neighbor and a response of love toward the Syrian refugees as the foreigner.
- Mercy has many different looks. As a nation with many resources, including political power, the American government can and should seek to help both interested parties. The government helps the Syrian refugee because they’re part of the world. Many of these folks have been sinned against, and most are in desperate need. At the same time, there may very well be terrorists among them. Without a robust vetting system, it is too dangerous to bring these individuals into the United States. However, we can demonstrate mercy as a government through political pressure on other Middle Eastern nations like Saudi Arabia. We can send supplies of all sorts to help resettle these individuals safely in their region. There are organizations and volunteers that can receive the Nation’s mercy through financial and real property kindness to distribute and help the Syrian refugees. In addition, the United States can send our military forces over to the Middle East in various ways and capacities to extinguish the threats against America and fellow humanity in the world. ISIS has already been given too much latitude and needs to be annihilated. Furthermore, US troops and those from other nations should create a SAFE ZONE in Syria where the refugees are given food, clothing, protection, and opportunities to work by serving other refugees. The US should work toward a solution to the civil war that tears the country apart while helping those displaced as much as possible until they no longer have to be.
- It is important as a Christian to reemphasize mercy toward the poor. Arguably, why are Christians comparatively more concerned about these 10,000 refugees from Syria, which are ISIS infested, when there are over by many estimates 50,000 homeless vets in the United States? How often do you see Christians going to social media to make the case for mercy to these vets? How often does the Christian visit the homeless shelter to donate time, money, and other resources? It seems a bit disingenuous to have more concern for 10,000 Syrian refugees than what we do for the homeless in America. We can’t ignore the Syrian refugees; we must show them mercy. However, we can’t ignore those that are homeless around us either. Now may be a good time to ask ourselves as Christians some hard questions as it relates to what we do with those that need mercy all around us.
Yes, show mercy – we must!
No, do not resettle them in the United States – there are other options that serve all our interests better.
Humbly submitted, I trust this will help you better think through the issue. I am trying to think through it consistently according to the biblical worldview as well.
Additional Thoughts from Internet Discussion (Revision)
What is the Christian’s responsibility? To love and desire to help the refugee and the veteran. The Christian can show mercy regardless of what the government does for the refugee. If the government chooses to help them in Syria, there are organizations needing help on the ground there through volunteers and donations. There are many individuals and organizations serving with incredible sacrifice seeking to help the Syrians gain a better life, like Jeremy Courtney. As Christians, Jeremy’s sacrifice should not be the exception but the rule. We desire to allow the gospel to challenge us to live up to Christ’s example of love and sacrifice for humanity around us. So if the Christian finds refugees in the States, love and serve willingly. If the Christian understands they are being cared for in other locations, love and serve willingly. Our responsibility does not change depending upon the location.
What is the government’s responsibility? To provide justice and protection. The government’s first responsibility is not to demonstrate mercy to foreigners. Although, the government as a representative of the people can and should – and of course that is desired. Mercy is the responsibility of the Christian. However, the government’s responsibility is different – protection and justice. As such, the government’s refusal to bring refugees into the States actually helps protect the citizenry for which it is responsible. In this instance though, it would be best for the government to not just protect, but also work with other nations to provide real and tangible help (acts of mercy) in Syria.