In Culture by Frank Powell November 18, 2015
I’m going to be honest. Today, my heart breaks. Yes, my heart is broken for the families and victims in Paris. Yes, my heart hurts for the thousands of Syrian refugees displaced around the world. But the weight pressing heavily on me is the attitude of many American Christians.
Since terrorists attacked Paris, several states have closed their doors to Syrian refugees. Ironically (or not) most of these states are in the Bible Belt.
While I do not support the actions of these states, I’m also not writing to them. Governments operate under a particular set of parameters. Among those is the safety of their people. If government officials believe accepting Syrian refugees puts their particular state at risk, that’s their decision. Do I agree? No. Does it influence my response? No.
I’m also not talking to atheists, agnostics, animists, or any other “ist.” If you don’t know and love Jesus Christ, I’m not talking to you. It’s not that I don’t care about you. It’s just that I understand. If you don’t claim Jesus as lord, I see where you would applaud governments for protecting your safety. If you post articles to help others see why accepting Syrian refugees is, in essence, pulling the metaphorical trigger for ISIS, I get it. I don’t agree with you. But I totally get it.
Today, I am talking specifically to Christians. Since the Paris attacks, I have read statements ranging from logical to completely ludicrous. So, let’s start by assuming the worst.
If America open its borders to Syrian refugees, some of those entering might be bad guys. And not just any bad guys. Brain-washed, American-hating, bad guys. Like Joker in The Dark Knight on steroids. They will now be walking on American soil, plotting to wipe out massive amounts of people. This would certainly be the beginning of the end for America. Do we really want to accept a few refugees at the expense of everything we know and love?”
To me, this is a far-fetched scenario. Others might disagree. It doesn’t matter. Even if this scenario were true, the rules of the game wouldn’t change. Christians don’t make decisions using the world’s ideals. Our worldview is shaped by a man named Jesus.
And I believe Jesus has a simple word for Christians when it comes to Syrian refugees.
Do to others whatever you would like them to do to you. This is the essence of all that is taught in the law and the prophets. Matthew 7:12
This one statement from Jesus summarizes everything. And this statement applies no matter how many hypothetical, “take down America” scenarios we conjure up. The foundational response for “How do we, as Christians, respond to the Syrian refugee crisis?” is “Do to others whatever you would like them to do to you.”
There are no “Yeah, but …” Jesus didn’t attach stipulations or conditions to his statement.
What if followers of Jesus responded to every person through the filter of Matthew 7:12? What if we removed the red, white, and blue lens, and put on the Matthew 7:12 lens? Here’s what I believe would happen.
We would stop labeling people in ways that release us from helping them.
A Matthew 7:12 lens would see Syrian refugees as men and women created in God’s image. They would be people desperate to feel the tangible love of God. We wouldn’t label them as potential terrorists but as helpless, homeless, displaced people desperate for healing and hope.
Labeling is an ancient sin. One of Satan’s oldest tricks to isolate and dehumanize. One he used to convince a crowd of Jews to crucify a sinless man. The Syrian refugees aren’t terrorists. They’re men and women created in the image of God. Any attempt to see them outside of this reality is from Satan.
We would stop allowing security and comfort to override compassion and grace.
A Matthew 7:12 lens would default to love and compassion. If you were a Syrian refugee, displaced from your homeland, without a permanent place to lay your head, having left loved ones to die, how would you want others to respond? You would beg them to drop their walls and build bridges. You would ask them to look past the potential of allowing some bad guys in. You would sacrifice everything because you were compelled by compassion. You would beg anyone who claims to follow Jesus to fall down on their knees and beg God to heal their land.
So, maybe we can’t house Syrian refugees. But a heart driven by compassion doesn’t look at the situation and say, “Well, our state has closed its doors. Nothing I can do.” A heart filled with God’s spirit would turn to prayer. Have you prayed for the Syrian refugees?
We would stop choosing the logical, sensical approach (fear) over the right approach (love).
Fear makes more sense than love. It’s a natural response to evil. But it’s not the right approach. At least, it’s not if you are a Christian. You see, fear is powerful. It drowns out love. You can live with fear or love, but not both. When it comes to ISIS, in particular, and evil, in general, we don’t need more courage. Courage doesn’t drive out fear. Suicide bombers are courageous. And they’re also driven by fear.
You can live with fear or love, but not with both.
Christians, our call isn’t to conjure up more bravery and courage. The only response to fear is love. The apostle John said,” Perfect love drives out fear.” It’s the only thing powerful enough to break the chains of darkness. It’s the only thing compelling enough to drive the son of God to the cross.
This love crosses boundaries, destroys walls, and accepts enemies. Welcoming refugees makes no sense. It jeopardizes our safety. It makes us vulnerable to attack. But we don’t allow logic to drive the train. God’s love doesn’t make sense. And because of this love, Christians have eternal life.
We would stop throwing money at crises as a means to clear our conscious.
I read a statement this morning from Dr. Ben Carson, a Republican Presidential candidate. I love Dr. Carson. I’m not attacking his character. I’m simply using his statement (you can read it here) because Dr. Carson is a Christian, and his stance represents the default approach of many Christians to global tragedies. Here’s an excerpt.
“Today, I am asking Congress to stop the Obama Administration’s plans to bring in up to 45,000 Syrian refugees…We should do everything in our power to help these men, women, and children who have been forced to flee their country, but until we can sort out the bad guys, we must not be foolish.”
In other words, accepting Syrian refugees is dangerous. But let’s not stop helping them. Let’s send them supplies and funds. Let’s hold them at arm’s length and use our pocketbooks to clear our conscious. It’s the Christian American way.
But it’s not the Jesus way.
A Matthew 7:12 lens would see money as a shallow excuse for receiving real people with real pain. As Christians, we should open our arms to the world’s suffering. In the process, we might also expose ourselves to the world’s pain. But this is the model of Jesus, who exposed himself to our pain on the cross.
Giving money to help refugees or orphans is great. But Jesus would never throw money at someone to protect his safety and maintain his lifestyle. Christians shouldn’t either.
Jesus would never throw money at someone to protect his safety.
We would stop adding stipulations to the commands of Jesus to keep us from loving our enemies.
Jesus said a lot of radical things. He told a parable that challenged Pharisees to love wretched Samaritans. He said lust was equivalent to adultery. But the most radical statement from Jesus was his command to love our enemies (Matt. 5:43-48).
A Matthew 7:12 lens would not say Jesus would retract his command to love our enemies if he were alive today. “I mean, Frank. Do you believe think Jesus wants us to love ISIS?”
I think Jesus told us to love our enemies and pray for them. In doing this, we become true children of heaven. I’m not saying we allow ISIS a free pass into America. But we MUST pray for them.
This isn’t optional.
Praying for your enemies isn’t optional if you love Jesus.
We would stop blaming political figures as a way to deflect our responsibility to feed orphans, homeless, and widows.
A Matthew 7:12 lens wouldn’t deflect Christians’ responsibility onto the President, Congress, or anyone in between. In Matthew 25, Jesus instructed us to receive anyone who is hungry, thirsty, or lost. And doing this makes us righteous before God.
Homeless refugees shouldn’t be a catalyst for our political agenda. It’s not Obama’s fault. Even if he were catering to Muslims, the responsibility of Christians doesn’t change.
Look, I suck at living like Jesus most days. I try, but I’m not great at it. Like most Christians, I love to get side-tracked on real issues affecting real people by turning them into political or theological debates.
A Matthew 7:12 lens would challenge us to stop arguing over issues and start seeing real people. Hungry, thirsty, lost people. And, rather than blaming political figures, we should pray about and discuss ways to be Jesus to thousands of refugees.
Christians, the fear mongering needs to stop. Governments will make their decisions. Those outside of Jesus will do the same. But we play the game with different rules. We don’t believe the lie that says more weapons, taller walls, or stronger militaries will overcome the evil in this world. Unapologetically, we fight with love. We believe the selfless, sacrificial love Jesus exemplified will destroy the evil and darkness in our world.
Love conquers evil and drowns out fear. Matthew 7:12 gives us the vision to see it.
I love you all. To God be the glory forever. Amen!