What to do with the refugees?

A Syrian refugee child who fled the violence from the Syrian town of Flita, near Yabroud, poses for a photograph at the border town of Arsal

A Syrian refugee child who fled the violence…

Daniel 6:So the presidents and satraps (of Babylon) conspired and came to the king and said to him, “O King Darius, live forever! All the presidents of the kingdom, the prefects and the satraps, the counselors and the governors are agreed that the king should establish an ordinance and enforce an interdict, that whoever prays to anyone, divine or human, for thirty days, except to you, O king, shall be thrown into a den of lions… Therefore King Darius signed the document and interdict. 10 Although Daniel knew that the document had been signed, he continued to go to his house, which had windows in its upper room open toward Jerusalem, and to get down on his knees three times a day to pray to his God and praise him, just as he had done previously.

I admire the courage I see in Daniel. The Lord had been faithful to him over and over again, which is how Daniel found himself in such a position of authority in Babylon in the first place. And though it appeared to put him in danger, Daniel remained faithful to the Lord God and his teachings. He would not be intimidated by the very real danger around him.

Sometimes living out of our identity as children of God puts us in danger.

There’s been quite a bit of discussion in the news recently about plans for the United States to receive refugees from Syria. We’re talking tens of thousands of refugees in the first year alone. Recent events in Europe are giving many people pause, which is completely understandable. Some state leaders have even declared they are categorically opposed to receiving refugees, though the matter is fundamentally a federal issue, not a state one. Nevertheless, these declarations reflect the concerns of many Americans.

What if, despite background checks (to the extent such are possible), terrorists get through? Is it worth the risk? Wouldn’t it be safer to simply relocate the refugees elsewhere? Shouldn’t wealthy Arab nations be doing more? These are all valid questions. But here’s a more important question:

How do we respond as people of hope and freedom rather than people of fear?

Americans aren’t afraid to take risks for the sake of others. It’s why we are known (rightly or not) as global police. When there is injustice and oppression in the world, Americans are generally the ones called upon to do something about it. Who leads the way in putting boots on the ground in the face of global aggression? We are. It isn’t our friends in Europe who lead the way. It isn’t Russia or China. It’s the good ol’ US of A. It’s who we are.

With great power comes great responsibility.

The quote enscribed on the Statue of Liberty says, “Bring me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.” This is precisely what our nation stands for. Is there risk in living out this identity? Absolutely. Will some ill-intentioned people get through along with innocent refugees? Absolutely. I don’t care how good the vetting process is, we’re not going to stop every potential terrorist. Not gonna happen.

But it’s just plain wrong to deny those in need when our country is so over-flowing with abundance. We are a generous people. Living out of this identity costs us something, for sure – and not just money. It’s what makes this the greatest country in the world (in my opinion).

Remember: there is also a gospel imperative to consider here.

Matthew 25: 37 Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry and gave you food, or thirsty and gave you something to drink? 38 And when was it that we saw you a stranger and welcomed you, or naked and gave you clothing? 39 And when was it that we saw you sick or in prison and visited you?’ 40 And the king will answer them, ‘Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.’

Being a friend to the marginalized is who we are as Christian people. Do we think that living out this identity is free of risk and potential harm? Of course not. Will extremists try to take advantage of our generosity? Bet on it. But no one said living out our Christian faith would be easy. There are some things more important than our personal safety. I will close today with a quote from our Lord Jesus Christ,

Matthew 16:24 Then Jesus told his disciples, “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. 25 For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it.

Lord these are troubling times and fear is not an unreasonable response to the senseless violence carried out by terrorists. Yet when we are tempted to close ourselves off from the rest of the world for our own protection, give us grace to remember who we are as children of God. We ask this in Jesus’ name. Amen.

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5 thoughts on “What to do with the refugees?

  1. Bjmanke

    Especially for me this message changed my selfish thoughts. I pray that messages like this will change attitudes. Thank you Pastor Ernie

  2. Lyn Zastrow

    Wow – I don’t know where to begin. It’s always dangerous mixing religion and politics, and that’s the problem. There is a lot of mis-information from some politicians on this subject that is deliberately trying to pull on our heart strings. And I’m not saying that we shouldn’t help.

    I’ve been to Erding Germany where there has been some refuges resettled. The residents there aren’t happy. It isn’t 3-year old orphans and widowed women as our current administration would have you believe. It is mostly young men who have left their families behind; and the UN statistics on the refugees bear this out as well. They are given money, food and shelter, wear ‘gangster clothes’, and sit around complaining that they aren’t given enough. There are many other serious problems as well but I wont’ get into that here.

    Yesterday our weak president claimed it would be wrong to bring in the Christians. Yet we have a history (and our statutes provide for) bringing in religiously oppressed people. There is no doubt that the Christians in Syria and Iraq are being targeted. They are the ones that remind me of Daniel – keeping strong in their faith while being persecuted. And ask yourself – how many Christians are fighting with ISIS? The answer is ZERO.

    Check out the Nazarene project. More than $12M dollars have been raised to resettle Syrian Christian refugees. The people are vetted by the pastors that have tended to their flocks for years. Of course they can’t be brought to the US as the Nazarene fund won’t accept any government money so they can’t be controlled as an NGO. Instead the Christian refugees are being brought to Eastern European countries.

    Changing the argument into allowing refugees is again a political situation. A slight of hand. Get us focused on a short-term solution instead of fixing the real problem. Pray for the Christians being persecuted. Pray for our leaders to solve problems instead of demagoguing and dividing.

    • Lyn, thank you for your insight on this difficult issue. I’m hopeful we will figure out a way to “responsibly” receive some Syrian refugees, finding the right balance between receiving ALL of them and NONE of them. We want to be compassionate, but we don’t want to be reckless either.

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