Knowing a bit of my back round, a few friends have asked me what my thoughts are regarding whether or not the United States should permit refugees from Syria to be resettled here.
Before I share a few of the things that I think about that subject and a few others, I believe that sharing a quick summary of my refugee-related back-story might be helpful to explain some of the reasons I hold the views that I do.
–I have visited Nepal and Thailand numerous times, been inside refugee camps in both countries, and have come alongside those that serve them, getting to know many of the refugees in those camps personally in the process.
–For more than four years, I served on the board of Partners Relief and Development, a Christian relief and development non-profit organization. You can click here to view their website. Refugees and Internally Displaced Persons (IDP’s), from Burma, (also known as Myanmar), are the focal point of the various expressions of God’s love that flows forth from this remarkable ministry.
–I was involved at a deep and multi-faceted level with refugees that had been resettled in Phoenix, Arizona, while serving as the pastor of a small church from early 2008 through mid-2012. During that time, I interacted regularly with the the three refugee resettlement agencies that operate in Arizona with the approval of, and in accordance with the guidelines of the Federal government, (Catholic Charities, Lutheran Social Services, and International Rescue Committee). I also served on two different committees that were part of task forces, (refugee employment readiness and refugee healthcare access), developed by the State of Arizona Refugee Resettlement program, an arm of the Arizona Department of Economic Security.
–The refugees we engaged, served in a multitude of ways, and loved in the name of Jesus were originally from Iraq, Iran, Burma, Bhutan, Burundi, Sudan, Eritrea, and other countries too numerous to list. Some were Christians, many were Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus, or from other spiritual belief systems.
With that said, here are a few thoughts I have related to the issue of resettling refugees from Syria…and a few other subjects that I believer are connected in some way:
–I think that one of the great blessings of living in this country is the freedom we have to express publicly what we believe those who govern us should do, along with the belief that they might actually listen to us and do what we would like to see them do. And the connected blessing of being confident that there won’t be any government generated retribution towards us for what we said.
–I think that those who publicly claim to be followers of Jesus and make public their opinions on certain issues–especially controversial ones, should be prepared for their views to be challenged publicly, contorted tremendously, and replied to with as much or more bible based justification than they may have used to originally make their point.
–I think that the very fact that governments and laws are even needed validates the accuracy of an explanation for all things that is bible-based and that matches the way human history has unfolded and the reality that we all know intellectually and by experience.
–I think that one of the essential purposes of government is the protection of its citizens from outsiders that would harm them, along with protecting them from the harm they some times do to one another.
–I think that although a human government can operate in accordance with some of the principles that the Kingdom of God is based on, no earthly government constructed by mankind can be an expression of the Kingdom of God.
–I think that eventually, (and as is the case right now in our country), the differences between the true Kingdom of God and any human government will become more and more evident.
–I think that as those differences become increasingly apparent, especially in the United States, a large portion of the New Testament that up till now, almost no follower of Jesus that lives in this country can truly relate to, will become incredibly relevant. (Such as: Matt 5:10,11 * John 15:20 * 16:1-3 * 2 Tim. 3:12 etc.)
–I think that regardless of the outcries of multitudes of people, some of whom claim to be followers of Jesus, God is going to permit our government to move forward with resettling refugees from Syria in to our country.
–I think that our government will screen them at least as diligently as, (and probably more diligently,) than they have screened the other millions of refugees that have received the blessing of being resettled in our country.
–I think that although God has the ability to stop this from happening, He is going to permit them to move into our communities and neighborhoods because He loves them and knows that many of them that are from the Islamic faith have never had face to face, personal relationships with people that know Him personally and who have loved them in practical ways in His name.
With these things in mind, if you’re a follower of Jesus and a portion of this batch of refugees are given a new start at life in or nearby the place where you live, I’d like to ask a few “what if?” questions that might move provoke you to consider how you and your fellow church members could possibly respond in a God-glorifying and people-loving manner:
*What if you contact the refugee resettlement agencies in your area to find out if they will be receiving and resettling a portion of this batch of refugees?
*What if you discover that some of them are coming to your area and you ask the agency to give you their arrival times and the details of how many men, women, children there will be?
*What if you begin praying for each and every one of them and inviting fellow believers to join you in lifting them up to the Lord?
*What if you share with your brothers and sisters in Jesus that you will take the initiative to greet at least one specific refugee upon their arrival at the airport or when they arrive at the apartment or house that is going to be their new home?
*What if you tell your brothers and sisters in Jesus, that you plan on not only engaging at least one of them the day they arrive, but that you will intentionally engage that person and maybe others on a regular basis in order to get to really know them, help them adjust to life in America, and be their first “friend” in America?
*What if you challenge your brothers and sisters in Jesus to do the same?
*What if every man, woman, and child that is arriving as a refugee, regardless of their religious back round, had at least one Christian like you that intentionally served and befriended them with the same self-less passion and love that you do?
*What if an incognito, potential terrorist, posing as a refugee in order to enter the country to do evil, was greeted and engaged as a friend by you or some other Christian on the day they arrived, and a personal and meaningful relationship with an American follower of Jesus was developed?
*What if God was able to use the relationships His people intentionally developed with a potential terrorist to not only move that person away from the original purpose they came to America with, but to also use that person to bring that potential terrorist in to a real relationship with Himself?
*What if the refugees do come and those that claim to be His people are crippled by fear and don’t engage each and every one of them? (God forbid this happen!)
Finally, although the biblical basis and motivation for a Christian to love and serve refugees is NOT primarily the safety of themselves and their people or the avoidance of terrorism, God may see fit to permit those things to be the blessed fruits that He produces when His people attempt to love others, including their enemies, as selflessly as He did.