This blog post was first written on the 13th January 2016, in reflection on the common Australian (and certainly what we hear from many Americans also) stance on the refugee movement around our shores.
“Sympathetic pity and concern for the sufferings and misfortunes of others”.
When I hear news about the things happening in this world, my heart is heavy and I am ASTOUNDED by the lack of compassion shown by people professing to be Christians. I will be the first to say that I have been astounded by my own lack of compassion in the past.
Christmas has just come and gone and the Christ who left His home in heaven out of love and compassion for us calls us to be His light in this dark world. In many ways, many of us as Christians are desperately failing, and especially, especially in the area of refugees. This is even more concerning when we see the story of Christ Himself, who became a refugee to Egypt under the command of Herod to kill all male children under 2 years old in Bethlehem. What if Egypt hadn’t taken Him in?
I can say with confidence that God has greatly softened my heart for these countless people over the last year, as I have watched the destruction unfolding in Iraq and Syria. These are people, who, like you and me, have aspirations, desires for a good life for them and their kids, want to survive. A year ago, I would have held onto the same rhetoric that many well-meaning people (and many well-meaning Christians) are saying:
– What about our own poor, our veterans, our homeless? We aren’t doing enough for them.
– How are we going to support all these people?
– What about the radical Islamists? Better not to have any Muslims at all!
I understand that we have needy here. I understand that it may incur extra cost to help support people. I understand the dangers of radical Islamists. Let’s not for a moment dismiss these as real issues. But when it comes down to it, these are people in need of safety and sanctuary. Below is a picture of Homs, a city in Syria. Very much broken. Very much destroyed. Very much uninhabitable. I definitely would not want to live here anymore, and really puts in perspective why people are risking their lives to get out:
These are people who are loved by God, who sent His Son to die for them. European Christians, especially those in Greece have found that they have new and unparalleled access to these people, many of who have NEVER heard the gospel and many of who are coming to faith in Jesus. There is unparalleled opportunity for Christ to work in new ways amongst entire people groups from Syria and Iraq who have never had access in times past.
If Christ were to return today, would He be impressed by the attitudes of those claiming to follow Him?
“For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’
“Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not clothe me, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.’ Then they also will answer, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to you?’ Then he will answer them, saying, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.’ And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”
~ Matthew 25:35-46 ESV
The answer is probably not. We are too scared, too selfish, too blind. Too comfortable in our way of life to care about the plight of a stranger from the Middle East. Too afraid of their way of life being imposing on our own. These hungry and thirsty people, these strangers, those without a home to go back to are not welcomed by us and we, as it says in this scripture, are not welcoming Christ.
Hebrews 13:14 says “For here we have no lasting city, but we seek the city that is to come.” So why are we so afraid to extend compassion to those who are in need in our current cities, our countries, our homes? What do we have to lose, especially when the city to come is such gain?
Regardless of issues we already have here and regardless of the danger posed by radical Islamists, we cannot not act. Humanitarian help is needed and the world needs to step up and do something, anything, to help these people who are in desperate need.
My heart is to extend compassion to these people. I have seen poverty firsthand. I have been watching things unfold in the Middle East from my comfortable first world home, with all my money and comfort and safety and lamenting and praying for these countless numbers of people.
I would argue, especially for those of us who acknowledge and try to best live out Christ in our lives, that the issue of refugees is fundamentally Christian at its core. We as Christians should be open to them. We as Christians should be loving and accepting and welcoming of them. We as Christians should be moved to compassion because of them. And we as Christians shouldn’t be afraid of anything that comes with them.
One of the many things I have learnt this year is that God can use people movements, and especially tragic people movements like a mass exodus from Syria to bring about His purposes amongst a people. We have access in these people to many who would otherwise be opposed in their homelands, who may not have heard, who may undergo persecution back home if they become Christian. Here there is freedom, here there is access to the gospel and here there is unparalleled opportunity to see refugees come to know Christ.
And I would challenge every single one of us to seriously consider where we stand on this issue – because the longer that action is not taken, the more people die homeless, hungry and alone at the hands of ISIS, on the oceans around our beautiful country or locked in detention camps without any hope.
We cannot be content to sit idly by as Christians in our affluence while these people suffer. For the sake of compassion and for the love of Christ, lets deeply and prayerfully consider this issue in our countries, for the good of others and for the glory of Christ.