The international refugee crisis has erupted in the American political campaign–and in the American church.
While many are warning about the risks of admitting throngs of refugees from Syria and elsewhere, some in the Christian community are promoting this time as a Good Samaritan opportunity to love the strangers from another land.
Church leaders sometimes find themselves caught between compassion for the displaced, and consideration for congregation members who feel threatened by terrorism that may come with an influx of immigrants.
World Relief, the humanitarian arm of the National Association of Evangelicals, commissioned a survey among pastors about the refugee issue. They found that 86 percent agreed that Christians have a “responsibility to care sacrificially for refugees and other foreigners.” But only 8 percent of the surveyed congregations are doing anything to serve refugees in their communities. And less than 20 percent are actively serving the needs of refugees internationally.
World Relief’s director of church mobilization, Matthew Soerens, said, “There’s a pretty big gap between our theology and our practice–how we apply our theology.” He said the gap comes from Americans’ fears about refugee issues right now.
Even with the rise of ISIS and its hideous forms of terrorism, Soerens says the church’s first question about welcoming refugees should not be, “Is it safe?” Rather, he argues, the question should be, “Who is our neighbor?” He said, “Our response has to be one of love, even if it’s not always safe.”
On this week’s Holy Soup Podcast, I asked Soerens if Christians’ love shouldn’t also extend to their families and fellow citizens who may be put at risk by evil-doers who may attempt to infiltrate the exodus of refugees from Syria. Hear his response here:
For many decades the American church has played a key role in the resettlement of refugees from troubled parts of the world. Many of these immigrants were introduced to Jesus Christ through the church’s acts of love. Christian organizations such as World Vision and World Relief have many success stories to tell, and many ways for churches and individuals to help displaced people around the world.
But many people believe we’re living in an entirely new age today. The threat of terrorism is too palpable and pervasive now, they say. Even with enhanced screening, some believe this is not the time to increase the flow the refugees.
What do you think? What’s the Christian responsibility right now? Is this the ultimate challenge to show the world what it means to be a Good Samaritan? Or should we instead support the resettlement work in other countries? Or is this the time to secure our borders, avoid the problems other countries have experienced with increased migration, and protect our homeland?
Great column, Thom. Very thought provoking and a good conversation starter for fellowship halls and Bible studies.
It is a controversial topic and one that can be difficult to deal with.
So many verses in the Bible tell us to be strong and trust in the LORD. It is hard sometimes to put our fears aside and truly trust God with our lives.
Thanks for posting it.
Sandra commented on Facebook: “Welcome, only if they bring their wife & children.”
As Christians we are to help those in need regardless of the danger to ourselves.
Galatians 6:9-11 English Standard Version (ESV)
9 And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up. 10 So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith.
I was surprised by my own indifference toward the refugee issues and have felt motivated to take action. The political conversations that dominate the media now totally leave out the ” love our neighbor” insight. Thank you for challenging my thinking.
I resonate with what you’ve said here, Susan.
As Christians, we are not to let fear dominate us. We serve an almighty God who calls us to be willing to lay down our lives, if necessary, for our brothers and sisters in Christ. Though we need to act wisely in whatever decisions we make, it doesn’t excuse us from doing what the Lord has commanded us to do.
I would happily reach out to refugees if I knew what/where/how to do it. For now I contribute to organizations who are helping them, posting articles and info online, signing petitions as well as lifting them up in prayer. However, this still doesn’t seem like enough.
I would love more information on how we can help in more practical ways, especially at a local level. Perhaps this is why the church is not responding; it’s sometimes difficult to know where to begin.
PureVintage, you can find lots of guidance on how to help at WorldRelief.org and WorldVision.org.
Thank you! Also, Open Doors USA & Voice if the Martyrs are good sources.
The call of God is not always safe. However, it is much more dangerous to be outside of God’s will and call. I have lived in a part of the world deemed unsafe and yet God blessed me in ministry, as well as protecting our family. I am reminded of these words from C. S. Lewis. “Aslan is a lion- the Lion, the great Lion.” “Ooh” said Susan. “I’d thought he was a man. Is he-quite safe? I shall feel rather nervous about meeting a lion”…”Safe?” said Mr Beaver …”Who said anything about safe? ‘Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good. He’s the King, I tell you.”
David commented on Facebook: “Matthew 25:31-46”
Lee Camp’s book may be of interest to readers of this post. The back cover offers, ” . . . He examines Christian and Islamic views on war, terrorism, and peacemaking, helping American Christians confront their own prejudices and respond to Muslims faithfully.” The book was reviewed by Shane Claiborne, Scot McKnight, and others.
Michael wrote on Facebook: “Fear of others is never, NEVER, a faithful response to anything. Only compassion. “But I tell you, love your enemies”, “As you have done it to these, you have done it to me.”
Sigfrid writes on Facebook: “If it were women and children coming with all these men as refugees, i would be more compassionate, but these men need to go home and fight for their own country.”
We should show compassion, but the effects on the host society should be spread evenly, not just in a few impacted neighborhoods. It might be necessary to set out specific areas where new arrivals can be properly supported ( and vetted ) before integration into society as a whole. The New Years fiasco in Germany is an example of how leaders approve immigration, then basically turn them lose on the host society. (while said leaders sleep soundly in their gated communities ) And when the majority are young single men you’re asking for even more trouble.
Melvin commented on Facebook: “Welcome them with love, but vet them carefully.”
We have to do both. For now until things settle down it seems to me the best solution is safe zones as close to the home of the refugees as possible. Bringing them here is not the only way to show Christian love. It is much harder to go to them – but in the long run might be more effective.
There is a difference between having compassion and advocating for unfettered immigration. We can love those who are already here and we can love those who are homeless/stateless and refugees overseas. Loving them does not necessarily mean bringing them here. Immigration is a national issue and also a security (of our nation and people) and cultural issue. Caring for those fleeing war needs to be done from compassion– regardless of whether they ‘like’ us or not.
And regardless of where they may be.
However, it would be a grievous error to presume that if we don’t believe that they should immigrate to our country, we must not therefore care/love/etc them. These are two distinct issues.
One way of looking at this is that many of these refugees live in situations much more dangerous then any we will, in the foreseeable future, face over here. So what is our responsibility before God in light of this?
I live in Australia. I am amongst the many in this country who lobby Government and media about the appalling response of my adopted country. Absolutely cringe making. We have a 50 year migrant/refugee experience and established and successful multi cultural community – BUT. We maintain offshore detention for family & children. Two governments ago we announced we would take in 12,000 SYRIANS. The arrivals today are pitiable. Less than 100 I believe. Christians – and those of other faiths with compassion in their hearts speak out – but we are drowned by the many with fear and self interest in their hearts. We have to keep on speaking out, praying and helping in what little ways we can in our own neighbourhood
Lita commented on Facebook: “The Bible is full of examples where Gods people protected themselves. Love is fine but if others are attacking you or threatening you, protect yourself. Don’t be stupid.”
Neil commented on Facebook: “Our government is not a Christian government and WE Shouldn’t allow it to impose and force its concepts of what it claims as right onto us in their so called misconception of what Gods Love actually means.”
Jesus did say “I was a stranger and you took me in.”
Jesus did say: “Go into all the world.”
These are commandments that the Saints should be doing.
But what are we to do when the government forces people on you?
Is it right for the government to force this on the Saints?
When Jesus was being tempted in the wilderness by Satan, Jesus was offered various temptations for to provide food for him Himself, to provide protection for Himself, and to provide riches for Himself.
Could not Satan be tempting the Saints with this refugee issue?
How many people are strangers in our own communities and churches that we have not provided for?
Do we ask for more strangers, when we do not provide for the strangers at our doorsteps?
Do you think providing for the refugees will makes us look any better in the government eyes?
Could not this be tempting God by doing this to please men?
Some might say: “You are trying to get it off your conscience.” You have a right to believe that.
But God’s word said: “for a man to provide first for his household.” It also said “Where you have the opportunity do good to all men, ESPECIALLY THE HOUSEHOLD OF FAITH (SAINTS).”
Look in your body of believers and see if there is a widow, orphan, single parent or senior citizen that needs help.
Then expand your borders.
I’d like to ask a question of all the “Good Samaritans” that have posted here.
Let’s say a man knocks on your door. You open it, and he says, “I want to live with you. I want you to take care of me–to feed me, clothe me, and give me money for the things I want as well as what I need. You owe it to me because you have a nice house and I don’t.
What would be your response? Would you welcome him into your home to live with you and your family, even after he assures you that he won’t do anything to harm you?
If you say “Yes,” you’re either a liar or a fool.
If you say “No,” you’re a hypocrite for insisting that it’s the responsibility of Christians to welcome refugees into the country who have no desire to assimilate, or to take care of themselves, or who might pose a danger to the nation.
The history of immigration in the U.S. started with people who fled religious persecution. In a short time, many others came just because they wanted to be Americans; they renounced their former citizenship and did everything they could to assimilate into our Western Christianized culture. They weren’t looking for handouts. That was my grandfather bringing my father to the United States, as well as my immigrant grandmother on my mother’s side. Don’t think I am against immigration.
Granted, some of the refugee population might still want to assimilate and contribute to the betterment of the nation, but the vast majority of Muslims don’t want to give up their sharia-based religious philosophy that doesn’t fit into our culture. That’s being proven in Europe as I write. And ISIS has promised to infiltrate the refugee population. Don’t think that the current vetting system will work. We have already experienced “vetted” Muslim terrorists.
The Lord has called us as individual believers to be Good Samaritans to those we come across who have needs. And we should do so without regard to their ethnic or any other background. But He doesn’t expect us to invite trouble. And He also warns us not to trust men.
On the other hand, He has established government to provide security and lawful administration as well as protection of its citizens. A government’s first duty is the safety of the nation’s citizens.
We cannot confuse the commands for believers with the role of government, especially when the government is not submitted to God.
Trump has it right: provide safe havens for Muslim refugees in countries where they will find compatibility with their culture. If you want to evangelize them, start with the many that are already here. If you aren’t doing that already, then don’t expect that adding hundreds of thousands more will provide for you a more lucrative field for ministry. The truth is that most Christians, including most of you “Good Samaritans” are already not fulfilling the Great Commission.
Talk is cheap. The price of foolishness is steep.
OK, you get a knock at the door – or run into someone who needs a coat and food. Jesus said if you have two coats give him one. No, you don’t let him move in with you but you do what you can. If we analyse every problem at the extremes we will never get anything done,
True, but Obama’s & Clinton’s immigration policy is to let everyone in, not to just help them where they are. In other words, they want them to move in with us, not just help them.
That is too true. He is the real problem to getting any of this done…right!
Al: The example you gave of the man knocking at your door and what you had him say. that would never happen in the way you said so there is no way to answer yes or no.
I think you missed the point. Of course that (probably) wouldn’t happen on an individual basis. It was an analogy expressing a principle. One can’t ignore the bigger picture just because the smaller picture is unlikely.
Let’s make it more simple: Do you give money to every panhandler who approaches you? Do you invite homeless people into your home without being asked? Do you offer any ongoing and consistent hospitality to strangers? Some may on a temporary basis, but you would still be foolish to bring strangers into your home to live with you, especially if you have a wife and children.
Scripture says, “A prudent man foresees evil and hides himself, but the simple continue on and are punished” (Proverbs 22:3).
America is being punished for its folly in turning from the Lord and His Word. Part of that punishment will be an invasion of the barbarians that will destroy the precious freedoms we have enjoyed for a short time.
But that doesn’t mean we have to welcome them in.
Peggy commented on Facebook: “I am surprised by the response. Kind of imagine this is exactly the thoughts running through the heads of the religious leaders in the story of the Good Samaritan. You do realize these people are persecuted because they are CHRISTIANS, right?”
The vast majority of refugees are Muslims. For those who don’t understand, the basic tenet of Islam is the mandate to conquer all nations to bring their people into submission (Islam) to Allah and sharia (Islamic law). This is done through jihad (English, “struggle”; German, “kampf”).
There is violent jihad and there is peaceful jihad. The violent jihad we know of. Peaceful jihad is waged through immigration and procreation. By our Father’s grace, Islam’s Ottoman Empire was unable to conquer Western Europe through violent jihad, but because Christianity in the West is so corrupt and faithless, Islam today is succeeding through peaceful jihad. It is estimated that Europe will be predominantly Muslim by 2050, and the United States not much later (barring the Lord’s merciful return).
It is the faithlessness of our western churches that is begging God’s judgment on the western nations. The corruption of our government is evidence of corruption in the churches. Who puts those degenerates in office but Christians?
We can point the finger at the ungodly world, but who do you think in this “Christian” nation is supporting all the evil? Who is paying for all the anti-Christ entertainment, including pornography? Who is championing abortion? Who is supporting the gambling, alcohol, drugs, and anti-Christ “education” system? Who is supporting televangelists who lead astray millions while pocketing millions?
The churches are feckless and afraid to hold their people to the righteousness demanded by our holy Father in Heaven. The pastors are CEOs of corporations dependent upon contributions. Their sermons speak to the lowest common denominator in order not to offend, and the pastors themselves are for the most part living in unconfessed sin.
When (according to both Barna and Pew research) over half the Christians and their pastors in the America think that the murder of babies (abortion) is okay, and the LGBT agenda should be accepted , it is only fitting that the religion that opposes both of those agendas should be God’s means of judgment. Islam is God’s hammer to chastise the apostate “Church,”
And Christians in the West are knotting the noose that will be used to hang them.
Our only refuge is in Jesus Christ, and we’d better be found adhering to His Word without compromise. The sword is coming, but your pastor won’t warn you. But your pastor can’t save you either from Islam or from God’s judgment. We are all responsible for our own souls.
Laugh if you wish, but this is a call to true repentance and surrender to God through faith in His only-begotten Son, and His sacrifice as atonement for your sins.
Okay, I’m off my soapbox. It’s up to you to do what you will with what I’ve said.
Thanks for reading this far, at least.
Well, not every Syrian refugee is a Christian but we should treat all the same. And protect our country at same time
.individual responsibility differs from government.
Actually, Doug, the believers responsibility is to other believers first, not to the world. That doesn’t mean we ignore the plight of suffering unbelievers, but we don’t treat them all the same. The Body of Christ must look out for itself because the world isn’t looking out for us. Witness all the laws coming out on local, state and federal levels that are making it a crime to follow one’s conscience. We are officially a police state when we are punished for following our conscience.
Where is the outcry?
Not sure about that. On mission field we know Muslims only help Muslims. When Christians reach out to them with food or water they often want to know about Jesus. Where do you find your view in the Bible?
I didn’t say we don’t help unbelievers. I said our first responsibility is to the Body of Christ.
Galatians 6:10: Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, especially to those who are of the household of faith.
It’s one thing to go to the mission field and help others; it’s something else to encourage an ungodly government to open wide the doors to hundreds of thousands of people whose cultural distinctives conflict with a biblical worldview, thus threatening the stability of our own culture which is based on the biblical ethic.
Instead of going to foreign missions fields, how about starting with Muslim communities here in the U.S.?
I know that most of today’s missions work is more social, hoping that somehow people will want to come to Christ. Little of it is pro-actively proclaiming the Gospel of the Kingdom (not just the gospel of personal salvation).
Hi Al, I must completely disagree with your statement:
“I know that most of today’s missions work is more social, hoping that somehow people will want to come to Christ. Little of it is pro-actively proclaiming the Gospel of the Kingdom (not just the gospel of personal salvation).”
I am on the Board of Directors of Global Outreach Mission. Have been affiliated with them for more than 40 years. Their overall purpose is evangelism. In Sierra Leone they have dug more than 100 wells providing water which saved a lot of lives during the recent Ebola Crises. In every case they went to the Village Chief – usually a Muslim -and offered to dig a well in exchange for ground on which to build a Church. When the well is completed they hold a public service and preach the Gospel. Large numbers have found Christ and a Church has grown out of that. And, Christian Schools.In one instance the Village Chief proclaimed “Now we are a Christian Village”. More information at http://www.missiongo.org
Government has the responsibility to protect. Individuals have the responsibility to love. Government fights enemies. Christians love and pray for them.
I’m not blanket addressing all missions, Doug. But I’ve done a study on missions as they are conducted by many organizations, and they are primarily aimed toward social work. For those that are truly working to save souls, I have high regard.
But, again, we have a large mission field here in the U.S. Sad to say, the churches are in need as most of them have become apostate, substituting psychology for biblical ministry, anecdotal commentaries for biblical truth, and soulish music for worship in the Spirit.
Keep up the good work.
Galatians 6:9-10. 9And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up. 10So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith.
“Everyone” means everyone. “Especially” reminds of us the “command to love one another” – I don’t see the conflict you apparently see.
Everyone does mean everyone, but he sets priorities her also. Muslims is not of the household of faith. Have you tried to personally witness to a Muslim in this country. I have. I do.
Do you give to the man asking for money on the corner?
Do you help the senior citizen that is not able to do what they used to do to perform everyday chores?
When was the last time you paid for someone’s groceries in the line with you?
Byron commented on Facebook: “It’s an invasion. don’t be stupid….”
Susan commented on Facebook: “Set up safe zones in their country. Help establish stability in their country. They do not want to be resettled all over the world, and have their ethnic identities stripped from them.”
I just take the Word of God for what it says. I don’t try to parse it to fit my personal proclivities.
I suggest you do the same. 🙂
I am taking the Words at what it says and doing it? This is what was given by the Holy Spirit by the hands of Paul for the churches to do.
WHERE AM I MISSING THE POINT?
I should do good to all people.
I should do good to the household of faith, first.
It appears to me you may be missing the point in this verse.
Come on, Scotty. We’re saying the same thing. First (especially) to the household of faith.
What’s the problem. You seem to want to be contentious where the is no contention.
Let’s go on in the spirit of love, okay?
As I said, “Keep us the good work.”
Yes, I’ve witnessed to Muslim, Jews, even Christians. I also help people who need help to the best of my ability. I’d rather give to people in need than to a “church” that dissuades people from the truth of God’s Word.
But that ain’t what this verse says.
It is good that you want to spread the gospel to one who have not heard.
But if our rather does not line with what The word says; IT IS SIN.
We do as the Word says, not what we would rather do.
Good grief, Scotty.
Now you’re just picking at me. We all make choices in life. We can’t give to everyone at all times. We have to exercise judgment as to where we give. And rather than (yes, my choice; I’ll answer to my Lord for my choices, not to you) give to an apostate institution, I choose to give to those in need, including some faithful institutions.
As I said in my previous response on the other issue, Let’s drop it, and just love one another, and all others, including our enemies.
In Jesus’ love,
i love you brother also.
I was a little contentious, but not meaning to be.
But I wish people would spend as much time promoting helping those locally in our churches as they do wanting to send to missions.
That is my final word.
I will move along
God bless you.
Charity begins at home… but it shouldn’t end there.
Ideology trumps rationality among the true believers. There are a billion distressed Africans; hey, let’s settle them in the USA!