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 Trump’s executive order on immigration? 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. So, how should we respond?
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 protect all Americans against encroaching danger, it is a subject in which we are very interested. This issue is greater than a mere political conversation.
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 this role. 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 personal 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 are part of the world. Many of these folks have been sinned against, and most are in desperate need. At the same time though, there may very well be terrorists among them. Thus, the government has a responsibility to act cautiously. 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 – do as much as they can while functioning as a protector.However, as individual Christians, the governments position of caution does not alleviate our responsibility toward mercy. 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. There are immigrants and potentially refugees in and around your neighborhood or community. Seek them out to strive to help them. 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.
- It is important as a Christian to reemphasize mercy toward the poor – in our neighborhoods – regardless if they are refugees or the homeless. Yes, we are concerned for the millions of refugees, but how are we really doing in our compassion 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 can seem a bit disingenuous to have more concern for 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!
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. None of us must think partisan first or America first; we are Christians first.
Here are a list of internet resources for you to consider as you educate yourself and contemplate this issue:
David Platt How to Respond to the Refugee Crisis
Pastor Mark Reynolds The Obligations of Courageous Love: A Pastor’s Response to the Syrian Refugee Crisis
Jeremy Courtney: The world is scary as hell. Love anyway.