A mission oriented view of the Refugee Crisis

Last night, I read David Platt’s article from the Gospel Coalition on how we as Christians should be thinking about the Refugee Crisis. It’s an adaptation of a talk that he did with the TGC leaders back in May of 2016. You can read David Platt’s article about the gospel-centered, mission-driven response to the Refugee crisis here.

The highlight for me:

Now, are there risks in proclaiming the gospel to refugees? Sure there are. But where have we gotten the idea that Christianity is devoid of risk? Security in this world should not be prioritized over proclamation of God’s Word. As followers of Christ, self is no longer our god. Safety is no longer our ultimate concern. So let’s show this with our lives. Let’s go and preach the gospel urgently, knowing others’ lives depend on it, and gladly giving our own lives toward that end.

What does the Lord require of us? The answer isn’t that we talk justice, but that we do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly.

May contrite lives before God produce courageous leadership in the church. Let’s not forget how Jesus rebuked the scribes and Pharisees in Matthew 23: “For you tithe mint and dill and cumin and yet have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness. These you ought to have done without neglecting the others. You blind guides, straining out a gnat and swallowing a camel.”

To that end, let’s not be so consumed with biblical minutiae that we forsake practical ministry. It’s easy to stay focused on small things, even small things that are important. I don’t use the term “biblical minutiae” as if there’s anything unimportant in the Bible. It’s all important. But Jesus is clearly saying, “Don’t lose sight of justice and mercy and faithfulness. Tithing, according to the law, is important, but so is generous, sacrificial care for people in crisis.”

Then I read this inspiring testimony of a church who jumped right in and helped a refugee family resettle in Canada. You can read that here.

Here’s the summary:

In December 2015, a group from Grace Toronto Church gathered together to help global refugees. Like the rest of the world, they had been horrified by the image of 3-year-old Aylan Kurdi, who had washed up on Turkish shores as his family tried reaching Canada. The small group researched the process of sponsoring a Syrian refugee family in Canada. On June 7, 2016, after months of waiting (and raising the legally required $30,000 for settlement), they received an email that a Syrian mother and father, along with their three children, would be arriving on June 20.

And then I read another article… and it’s what prompted me to write this post. Jayson Casper at Christianity Today wrote a really insightful article about how the Arab church is responding to President Trump’s EO. You can read it in full here:

The quote that jumps out at me is this one:

“This policy will encourage Christians to migrate,” he said, “which is exactly what Christian leaders in Syria are fighting against.

“It is important for Christians to live in Muslim countries,” he said. “Because through them, Muslims will learn to accept the other. We must learn this principle in order to have a democratic society.

“Extremists say there is only one way to think or believe,” Moucarry continued. “So keeping Christians in the area is an indirect way to counter extremism and learn that diversity is good.”

Chaldean Patriarch Louis Raphael Sako, primate of the Eastern Catholic Church, went further. In remarks to Agenzia Fides, the news agency of the Vatican, he criticized Trump’s orders harshly.

“Every reception policy that discriminates the persecuted and suffering on religious grounds ultimately harms the Christians of the East,” said Sako.

Such rhetoric feeds into tensions with Muslims, and paints Christians as lackeys of the West. “[It is] a trap,” he told Fides. “We do not want privileges.”

Bishop Angaelos, leader of the Coptic Orthodox Church in the United Kingdom, agrees that placing religious categories on refugees, immigration, and travel has the potential to provoke greater antagonism and give rise to reciprocal actions. (Already, Iraq has responded by banning Americans from visiting.) Thus, vulnerable Christian minorities in the Middle East could be adversely affected.

But he also believes it is “patronizing” to tell beleaguered Christians to stay in the Middle East. “It is a choice of life and death,” said Angaelos. “It is not about maintenance of the church or their community. We have to support them no matter what their decision.”

There is so much in these three articles to chew on, but what stood out to me is how comfortable we are as American Christians. When we consider God’s blessings, we automatically default to thinking about what will make us comfortable. This is the American Beatitude: “Blessed are the comfortable, for to them belong pleasurable feelings.” But even a cursory read of Matthew 5 gives us a whole new paradigm for what makes us blessed:

Matthew 5:2-12
[2] And he opened his mouth and taught them, saying:
[3] “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
[4] “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.
[5] “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.
[6] “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.
[7] “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.
[8] “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.
[9] “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.
[10] “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
[11] “Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. [12] Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

This perspective is super helpful to me because American Christians are absolutely called to leave their comfort zones as outlined by Platt and so many others. Opening our doors and caring for refugees in the US is an act of taking up the cross. But our Syrian Christian brothers and sisters are called to carry their own crosses too: for some, that means leaving, and for some, that means staying. Uprooting my family to move to another country in order to provide and take care of them is an act of taking up the cross. Staying and being in the persecuted minority is an act of taking up the cross.

I don’t want to be an American who thinks that it’s our job to make everyone as comfortable as us. As a Christian, I must do what I can do to rescue those in need, but sometimes my job is to simply pray with the afflicted, knowing that they’ve chosen their affliction as Christ chose his. I know that someone is going to read this as justification that we should close our borders. WRONG WRONG WRONG. We must be able to have the laws of our country allow for the church to have arms open wide for those that are afflicted and need to be taken care of. But for those who choose the affliction of staying, we must do whatever we can to support them. There’s a balance somewhere, and it’s worth finding because our brothers and sisters living in Muslim countries want us to help them be courageous AND to help them be cared for.


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