Still on medical leave, I’m not back to work yet, but you wouldn’t know it from my Inbox. My post from last week on the refugee crisis provoked a number of protestations that I was playing politics.I could reiterate that welcoming refugees isn’t a political position for Christians. It’s a commandment given to Moses. It’s one of the hallmarks of the Jubilee that Mary sings about in her Magnificat. And it’s one Jesus doubles down on in his preaching.
I know the social media soundbites would have us fear these refugees aren’t really displaced people but terrorists bent on harming us.
Of course, that doesn’t really settle the issue for Christians because:
A) The most common exhortation in scripture is that we are not to be fearful
B) We’re to love and pray for our enemies too.
Damn, there’s no out for us.
Rather than argue the point, perhaps its best to extend an invitation. Instead of insisting that our borders be closed and our states refuse any refugees, Christians should partner with other Christians in and around the Middle East who are attempting to care for refugees.
Rather than clicking ‘Like’ on Facebook, retweeting red-meat or trolling on a blog and thinking you’ve fulfilled your baptismal obligation, why not kick over some cash, as my family will this Advent, by giving to International Orthodox Christian Charities.
What better way to worship the Holy Family who were refugees than by caring for another refugee family who are, through God taking flesh, holy?
Here’s what Adam Hamilton recently wrote on the subject. Hamilton, founder of the largest United Methodist congregation in the U.S., is a reliably moderate voice on issues facing the church and the world. He’s neither liberal nor political and his congregation is in one of the most conservative parts of the nation. Incidentally, the video above was produced by Ginghamsburg UMC in Ohio.
‘When God came to this earth, he came as a child fleeing the horrors of tyranny, living as a refugee for the first years of his life.
Years later when Jesus would describe the Last Judgment to his disciples he spoke of the final judgment being a moment when the Son of Man would separate the nations of the earth as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. The sheep would be welcomed into God’s eternal kingdom, and the goats sent away. Jesus said the difference between the sheep and the goats was that the people who were sheep in this parable were those who helped people in their hour of need. The people who were goats turned them away. Who did they help or turn away? It was the hungry, thirsty, naked, sick, imprisoned, and the stranger. Stranger in Jesus’ parable signifies the foreigner. I think Jesus included this last category because he himself had been a refugee in Egypt.
In the parable it appears that the goats thought of themselves as religious. They were therefore surprised when, at the last judgment, there were turned away. So, why did the goats turn away those who were in need? I think it was because they were afraid and they allowed their fear to override their compassion and humanity. And the sheep? They found the courage to overcoming their fears and to act with compassion and love.
We’re right to insist on proper screening of refugees (on this I don’t know enough about the current processes for screening to know if it is adequate or not). If the current practices are inadequate, let’s improve them. But our fears cannot lead us to completely close off our hearts to children, families, seniors who need our help and have nowhere to go.
The Syrian crisis is complex. Doing our best to ensure security is important. But we must also find a way to help people fleeing from harm to find refuge.
If you’re not receiving refugees in your state, how can you or your church help those who are?’