*Western Kentucky Refugee Assistance in Bowling Green, KY:
I’ve often wondered what I would have done, had the holocaust happened in my own country, in my own lifetime. Would I have been one of the people who hid the Jews? Would I have put my family at risk, to become part of the underground? I know myself well enough to have never flippantly answered that question. I’ve always known that I don’t know.
The world is now being asked the same question. In light of the Syrian crisis, how will we respond?
The Germans feared Hitler and what his military forces would do to them if they harbored Jews or interfered in any way.
We in America fear ISIS and the remote possibility of unknowingly harboring a terrorist.
Both of these are/were real possibilities (although the second significantly less so.*) How will we respond? How will I respond? Currently, my response is one of omission motivated by one thing:
The answer to my long-asked question is now clear to me. Had I been a German during the Holocaust, I would have done nothing.
And now God is tapping me on the shoulder, nagging me with another question – one that I don’t want to hear:
“Who am I?”
Is God really my provider, my protector? Can I trust Him, in that capacity? Can I trust Him with my safety? Can I trust Him with my children? When I open the pages of my bible, this is what I find:
- “You shall also love the stranger, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt.” Deuteronomy 10:19
- “Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares.” Hebrews 13:2
- “Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to care for orphans and widows in their distress…” James 1:27
- “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire 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, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’ They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’ “He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’” – Matthew 25:41-45
Although there might be many political, financial, and logistical reasons for citizens to reject the influx of global refugees, there are no theological ones. – (Read more Here)
We are living in a time when we’re being asked to do the least of these things. When people’s lives depend on it and those who believe in Jesus, who claim to put their trust in Him, ought to be first in line to help. Instead, we cower in fear and ask our government to close its borders.
Rachel Held Evans put it well when she wrote:
The question isn’t whether Jesus would embrace or reject refugees. Jesus *was* a refugee (Matthew 2:13 ) and *is* present among refugees today (Matthew 25:35). The question is whether we will turn away Christ Himself when he comes to us in this “distressing disguise.”
Might we unwittingly harbor members of ISIS? Perhaps (please see links below for more information on this.) Had we lived in Germany during the Holocaust, we might also have been caught. These are the kinds of fears that made the murder of six million Jews possible, while virtually every country in the world – including ours – stood by.
(For other sobering statistics, click Here.)
Satan wants to divide humanity — to instill fear, hatred, and distrust. So he’ll attempt to demonize the innocent and falsely accuse them of being violent, evil, and dangerous. We’ll be provided with an infinite — sometimes even logical-sounding — amount of excuses to do nothing, to protect ourselves, and to withhold the love of Christ.
But imagine if Jesus limited his ministry based upon the conditions of comfort and security:
There would be no traveling through Samaria — too hazardous. No interacting with foreigners — too dangerous. No helping strangers — too risky. No healing the sick — too unsafe. No attracting crowds — too insecure. No performing miracles — too perilous. No public speaking — too unprotected. No giving to the poor — too wasteful. No interacting with outcasts — too socially unacceptable. No disciples — too untrustworthy. No generosity — too wasteful. No grace — too weak. No forgiveness — too soft. No death on the cross — too painful (to say the least).
If Jesus used the same stipulations for love that we do, the gospel never would have existed, because almost every single experience Jesus put himself in required risk, sacrifice, and vulnerability. And instead of being fueled by fear, Jesus was fueled by hope.
In the end, no matter which way I spin this, there is only one answer I can find Jesus in:
“Whatever you did for one of the least of these, you did for Me.”
A woman named Shannan Martin shared this over on Jen Hatmaker‘s facebook page. It’s so true, it hurts:
We just want a way around this part. This one is too hard to even allow ourselves to think about. I want a pass on a lot of things right now, but I know this to be true: the way of Jesus never makes sense. It never allows us to position ourselves or our safety above others. It is so obvious and it makes me want to run away and cry.
Following Jesus has always been about sacrifice. Out of twelve disciples of Jesus, ten were martyred. The early church suffered persecution unlike anything we’ve ever seen and foreign missionary work has always been rife with danger. And yet, Christians all over the world – from the day of Jesus’s Resurrection until now – have been willing to make the sacrifice.
Right here, right now, we have the opportunity to minister to hurting people from across the world in our own back yards. Not in the traditional American way of dragging them to a megachurch to repeat the “sinners prayer” but in serving, supporting and caring for those who need it most. As one commenter put it: “What is the point of sending missionaries over sea, if we are not willing to care for people when they come over seas to us?”
For years and years and years it has been nearly impossible to get missionaries (even sneakily) into parts of the Middle East. It’s so dangerous, some, assuming they can even get in, are likely to be killed so quickly they can’t do much evangelizing. And now, hundreds of thousands of beaten, hurting, orphaned, widowed (google “pure and undefiled religion) and broken people are trying to come to US.
Is it possible that a small percentage of them want to kill us? — Let me counter that question with another question:
Does it matter?
It’s true that it may be dangerous. Some may even lose their lives. This has been the way of discipleship since the beginning. We have the chance to minister to a people in dire need of Jesus. Never in our time has the need been so great, never has the call been so important.
One last thing…
In addition to the arguments against bringing Syrian refugees in due to the remote possibility that they are ISIS members, I’m seeing sentiments like this floating around a lot lately:
Although I can understand the sentiment, it comes from a faulty worldview based on lack. In truth, America has resources enough to care for both. But more importantly, my question for those who share this mentality is this: What are you currently DOING about the poor in your own back yard?
To sit in the comforts of our own homes and complain about the poor in our own country accomplishes nothing – for ANYONE. With all the love I can possibly muster, I say to you:
Don’t say another word, don’t post another picture. YOU ARE PART OF THE PROBLEM.
If you are not actively caring for the poor around you, then you are passively contributing to the problem. However, should you wish to actively love the poor around you, here is what I propose: You focus on the poor in your own country, city, back yard. While you’re doing that, someone else, who has a heart that burns for the refugees, will do all they can do to care for them. Meanwhile, those who have hearts for orphans will open up their homes, and yet others will care for the poor on the other side of the globe and between us all, people will be fed, clothed and sheltered and above all loved. Personally, I don’t believe our efforts have to be either/or. But if you do…
Find the homeless in your city, take in a foster child, donate money, help the refugees. If you feel passionately about only one of these things, then DO THAT THING. Other people will do their thing, and together we’ll make a difference.
*The American refugee program has been in place since 1975. In that time, we have been home to over three million refugees and not one – NOT ONE – has ever committed a terrorist act on US soil. Of the 859,629 refugees admitted since 2001, only three have been convicted of planning terrorist attacks (on targets outside of the United States,) and none was successfully carried out. That is one terrorism-planning conviction for every 286,543 refugees that have been admitted. That’s over 200,000 desperately hurting people to every ONE terrorist. To put that in perspective, about 1 in every 22,541 Americans committed murder in 2014.
Contrast this to the thousands who were caught and jailed or killed helping the Jews during the Holocaust. Many have accused me of being unfair in my comparison of the refugee crisis to the Holocaust, and they’re right. Those who helped the Jews were much, much more likely to lose their lives and those of their families than we are by helping the refugees.