Due to war, tyranny, and strife in Syria and other parts of the Middle East we are seeing Syrians, Iraqis, and others fleeing their countries in order to find safety for themselves and their families. They are seeking refuge in Europe, North America, and other parts of the world. We are literally seeing a large group of people from the Middle East being spread all over the globe.
Now, I am sure there are many different reactions to this current world event. But, what I want to do in this post is simple try to look at this from a gospel standpoint. From a Christian standpoint, that is really the only right view to have. But, I must admit, this perspective on this situation is probably not a popular one, even in the church. But, that does not change the fact that we as Christians are to respond biblically to this crisis.
Real effects that are coming
- Economic burden – with the refugees entering other countries, the financial stress on those countries are going to be major. Lebanon is a great example of this as they have allowed over one million refugees cross their borders in order to find safety and a new life.
They are arriving with no income or resources to provide for their families. So, the host governments are needing to fit that bill. Not only that, as they begin to settle in these countries and receive working visas, some will begin to look for work. This will affect the economy in several ways. The jobs they take will mean that citizens of those countries will have less opportunities of employment due to the refugees being hired. The unemployment rate will probably be negatively affected by this.
So, we can see that from a government standpoint as well as from a local economy standpoint, the presence of these refugees will create a real and lasting economic burden in the places they go.
- Security concern – With these refugees arriving from countries where many Islamic extremists and terrorists live, one of the big objections to receiving the refugees is that some might be terrorists, be aligned with terrorist groups, or be sympathetic to the extremists’ ideas which could cause great danger to the countries in which they enter.
Could this be true? No doubt. This concern is real and must be taken seriously. The question that we do not know the answer to is: will this affect our national security? Only time will tell, and our hope is that the host governments are doing all they can to prevent any threat.
- Cultural concern – As the refugees arrive, one thing is certain. They will bring with them their beliefs, culture, and ways of living. A major concern is that their presence will change the culture of the countries where they go. Again, Lebanon is a great example of this. With the arrival of Syrians and Iraqis, they have seen a massive change in the percentage of Muslims in their country. This has literally changed that country’s culture. It has even affected their politics.
The Christian response
So in seeing what is going on in the Middle East, what are we to do as Christians? How are we to respond with the gospel? I have heard point of views (directly and indirectly) from believers on what they think of all this. It is important that we do think about this because our world is changing because of it.
I have heard some respond in saying that they fear the economic burden that this will cause with possibly higher taxes and unemployment rates. Others have expressed their fear of more terrorist threats. Still some think it is foolish of our governments to allow these refugees to come because we have needy people here already who should be taken care of first before we care for others. Questions are often asked: Why cannot we just help them in their own country? Why do they have to come here? Is it safe? Is this just a terrorist plan to infiltrate other countries?
But I want to respond to these questions as well as others by simply asking one simple question? As devoted followers of Jesus Christ, biblically what do we place our hope in? Answering that one question should help us know how to think about the arrival of Middle Eastern refugees into our communities. Let me explain. I have numbered my points that I think can help us think biblically here.
- Our hope is in the work of Christ, and nothing else. In believing the gospel, we have repented of trusting in anything else but Jesus and we have confessed that He is all we need. We worship Him alone. We love Him above all things. We completely trust that He has, does, and will care for all our needs. THEREFORE:
- Our hope is not in the economy, money, jobs, retirement, or material possessions. Therefore, the fear of having less money, jobs, and stuff should not determine how we receive or refuse to receive these refugees.
19 “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, 20 but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. – Matthew 6:19-21
THEREFORE, to not want refugees to enter our countries due to economic reasons is simply an argument that is biblically illogical. One of the applications of the gospel is that, now because of our hope in Christ, we are gladly willing to surrender, sacrifice, and even abandon material wealth if that helps our worship of God in making disciples of all nations. Because our hope is not in money, but in Christ, if our financial loss means the salvation of souls, then we scream a huge Hallelujah and Amen! (Luke 16:9)
- Our hope is not in earthly security. Actually, we are foolish even to think that for one minute that we really control our security here on this earth, whether living in the Middle East or with the Amish in Lancaster, PA. Whether the refugees enter our country or not does not change the fact and reality that we are simply not in control of our security. Can we take precautions? Of course. But we must answer a couple of questions very seriously: What is more important, taking precautions in hope that we can protect ourselves from terrorists, or helping people who are running for their lives and desperately needing help? What is more important, our earthly security or having people who have mostly never heard or seen the gospel have a chance to hear it and see it? Biblically, the Christian answer is simple. The parable of the good Samaritan is a great picture of the Christian response (Luke 10:25-37). To place our need for security over the needs of people is simply opposite of the gospel and an offense to God, who is our security. Because our hope is in Christ, we gladly give up personal security if that means we get to proclaim the gospel of Jesus.
- Our hope is not in our culture. I am a U.S. citizen and I am proud of that fact. I live in Canada and I am proud of that fact too. But we would be more than foolish to think that our culture is the best one and is what everyone else in the world needs to adopt. As a Christian, that is an insult to Syrian and Iraqis Christians who have trusted in the same Christ as us, but live with a different cultural mindset. If the result of hundreds and maybe thousands of refugees trusting in Christ means that our culture will change, then we as believers should embrace it for the gospel’s sake. Who knows, we might can learn something from people who have lost everything, yet can still worship with honest and joyous hearts, the Lord Jesus Christ. Maybe God can use them to help us repent of our love for material wealth and selfish pleasures. As some refugees come to Christ they can teach us the deeper meaning of what it means to live in this world as pilgrims and exiles (1 Peter 2:11). I wave my country’s flag proudly. But I wave the words of God much higher and with more allegiance. This comes from my hope in Christ.
- The argument that we should help our own needy before helping others is simply a foolish and lame argument. It is a selfish argument. If we as believers lived this way, world missions would never have existed, for we would have not gone to others places before everyone in our country or region was a Christian first, which will never happen. We are to help the best we can and share the gospel with everyone God brings our way. No partiality. The reason we have needy people here already is because we are a people who are in love with possessions, pleasures, and power more than we are with God. So, if we were really concerned for the poor and needy here, we would have already been making sacrificial steps to as believers to help. So, this argument is not only not a Christian one, it really exposes how deep the root of selfishness runs in our hearts. Because Christ is our hope, we go and we receive for the sake of the gospel.
- Could the refugees being sent all around the world be a gift from God? They are coming from countries where sending missionaries, starting churches, and training local believers has been hard. Could God be using the persecution in Syria and Iraq to spread the message of the gospel? I think possibly so. He did it before (Acts 8). We should look at the refugees coming as a gift from God. Whether due to they being hard to reach in their own country or due to the church’s disobedience in not going to them before, now we have a grand opportunity to see people come to faith in Christ who, if they remained in their former circumstances, would have never heard it, never have had the chance to believe, and never had the chance to be reconciled to God. What a unique opportunity!
- Some ask, why cannot we just help them in their own country? Answer is rather easy to explain. We were not going and helping. 2000 years ago, Jesus called His church to go to all nations and make disciples. We have not fully obeyed His command. We love our comfort, culture, and stuff too much. The evidence of this is easy to see. Mission boards are struggling to send missionaries around the world due to a lack of funds. Now, they are refusing missionaries and even cutting missionaries because they do not have the resources to send them. Why is that? We, the church, do not give sacrificially. Period. Because our hope in Christ, giving sacrificially should be an absolute joy (2 Corinthians 9).
- What if all these refugees fleeing to other countries are nothing more than a ploy by the terrorists to advance their plans, sending terrorists all over the world? Again, easy answer when looked through the lens of Scripture. In the end, every kingdom in the world, but one, will fall. In the end, only God’s kingdom will stand. And His kingdom is advancing through His church! If the gates of hell cannot defeat His church (Matthew 16), then what makes us think that terrorists can? And get this. Even in their attack, some of the persecutors can even come to faith in Christ. God did it before (Acts 9). And that hope should remove any fear of a possible threat. Our God reigns forever, and no one, no country, and no organization can or will stop that. Because our hope in Christ, we do not fear those that can kill only the body, but we fear Him who can kill the body and soul in hell (Matthew 10:26-33).
The Christian response is not a hard one to figure out, but I believe it will be a hard one for the church to embrace. As these people, created in the image of God, arrive. We, the church, must help them get food, clothes, homes, and jobs. And we must get them the gospel. This can only happen if we as the body of Christ put away fear, sin, & selfishness and embrace a biblical worldview. Would it not be great that in five or ten years we see former refugees, now settled in our communities, not praise the government for helping them, but thank the church of Jesus Christ.
Oh Lord help us. Help me. To lay aside fears, selfishness, money, possessions, and pride in order to proclaim and show your gospel to every person you send our/my way. Amen!
32 “Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom. 33 Sell your possessions, and give to the needy. Provide yourselves with moneybags that do not grow old, with a treasure in the heavens that does not fail, where no thief approaches and no moth destroys. 34 For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also. – Luke 12:32-34