Tuesday, January 31, 2017

A Christian Response to the Refugee Crises

Refugees and Immigrants have been with us since the days of Cain and Abel. People have moved by the pull of a better life and have been chased away by an unlivable home.

We have often tried to get a handle on the new reality of people movements around the world by categorizing people: Legal/illegal, citizen/alien. But by doing this we not only fail to come to terms with the global problem, we also leave gaping holes of injustice in the wake.

Instead, let’s talk about people: Jose fled with his parents and siblings to L.A. from Guatemala, after a five month walking-trip through Mexico. Though the parents had no visa, still L.A. is all Jose has known since he was 22 months old. He hasn’t even learned much Spanish in his new home. To talk to Jose this week you would know his constant fear that is keeping him up every night, wondering if he will have to leave. 

Joseph spoke out against a tyrannical and murderous regime in his African home, and the result was a burned down house and bullets at his car. He came to NY under an asylum application but is scared that it will now be denied, after nearly 2 years of going through the process. Where can Joseph go? Back to a sure death?

Sari is a 12 year old little girl, who arrived to JFK with only a small suitcase of all that she owns. Her parents sold everything they had, left after bombs destroyed her city, and prepared to move in with Grandma. She has nothing to go back to and now, it seems, nothing ahead of her.

There is a lot in the Bible about how you treat “others” – those who are not of your nationality, race, faith and status. I have been guided for many years by three simple truths that help me navigate the complex, controversial and growing refugee and immigration realities in America:

1. Our response to refugees must be born from a RADICAL HOSPITALITY that is informed by God’s stated expectation in the Bible.

       a. God’s Creation: “The earth is the Lord’s and everything in it, the world and ALL WHO LIVE IN IT…” Psalm 24:1

       b. Remembering Who We Are: “When a foreigner resides among you in your land, do not mistreat them. The foreigner residing among you must be treated as your native-born. Love them as yourself, for you were foreigners in Egypt. I AM THE LORD YOUR GOD.” Leviticus 19:33&34.

We are a nation of foreigners; we are, as the NT reminds us, “aliens” in this world ourselves, and our ultimate citizenship is in eternity. God expects us to treat those who come to us as if there were no borders - to treat them “as ourselves”.

       c. Knowing How Jesus Expects Us to Treat the “Other”: “Then Jesus said to his host, when you give a luncheon or dinner, do not invite your friends, your brothers or sisters, your relatives or your rich neighbors; if you do, they may invite you back and so you will be repaid. But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you WILL BE BLESSED. Although they cannot repay you, you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.” Luke 14:13ff

       d. Know Who God is and That We Follow His Example: He knows what it’s like to be the guest (Luke 19:5), stranger (Matthew 25:35-40), and Host (Rev.19:9)

2. Know why people come to America. 

Most think they come for prosperity, to flee war or famine, to rejoin family, and some fear they come to do Americans harm. But the Bible is very, very clear that it is GOD WHO DETERMINES WHERE AND WHEN PEOPLE LIVE. “From one man He made all the nations, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and He marked out their appointed times in history and the boundaries where they reside.” Acts 17:26.

God ultimately has a purpose for relocating the populations of the world and that purpose is missional; “God did this so that they would seek Him and perhaps find him, though He is not far from any one of us.” Acts 17:27. 

If we see the refugee and immigrant as God’s mission to us it has to replace fear, selfishness and complacency.

3. The Bible is very clear on what justice to the “foreigner” looks like. It’s in the same chapter as our beloved “Ten Commandments”: “When a foreigner resides among you in your land, do not mistreat them. The foreigner residing among you must be treated as your native-born.”

This is not a political issue, it’s a moral issue, a justice mandate and a Christian’s response.

The crises of the new “Ban on Refugees” must cause us to weep now for those who are suffering, remember the call of Jesus to welcome them, and pray for a dawning of hope for those trapped in the turmoil of the unknown.

Join me in being Proverbs 31 kinds of people who, “Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute. Speak up and judge fairly; defend the rights of the poor and needy.” Proverbs 31: 8&9

Come join with CSM and help be Christ to the refugees our partners serve in the city! To learn more about how you can do this, please visit our website at: http://csm.org/signup.php

(Article written by: CSM President Dan Reeve)