I have sat down at my computer so many times since last Friday to write this post. There is so much to say and my heart has ached so deeply for the people of Paris, Beirut, Baghdad, Kenya… and so many other places that find themselves reeling from the violence perpetrated by extremist and terror groups.
My reactions are based on my faith upbringing. My desire to throw open the gates as wide as they can go and receive the war-weary refugee with open arms is the result of a life-time of religious education. The things I was taught as a child in Sunday School and Bible School, the call to serve issued to me when I was an adolescent working though Confirmation classes, the hands-on lessons of loving our neighbors taught me as a teenager in United Methodist Youth Fellowship… they tell me I have a duty to care for the refugee, even if it puts us at risk. Because discipleship is costly.
But then I see the things the people who helped raise me in faith are saying–I hear the call from some of my Christian friends and family to close the gates. I can’t reconcile those ideas with what I find in Scripture.
My first instinct is to fight.
I want to scream and yell and wave the Bible and shout from the mountaintops, “Remember what you taught me?”
I shake my head in despair because it feels like the terrorists have won–we’re so afraid of the possibility of an extremist getting through that we shut everyone out.
But in the end I know there is probably nothing I can say or do that will change their opinions. Just as I can’t even begin to understand where they are coming from, I’m sure they are shaking their heads at me and thinking the same about me.
So, as what I offer today is something that no Christian can deny: God has called us to serve and care for the vulnerable. Regardless of the political opinions a person may hold regarding how many (or if) we allow refugees into our own neighborhoods, we are duty-bound as Christians to care for them. We can’t turn our backs on them all together.
In the days to follow, I’m sure I’ll offer my personal thoughts and insights on the refugee crisis–after all, this blog is about my faith journey as a minister and my interpretations of what it means to be a disciples in this world. I won’t shy away from putting my two cents into the debate… but for now, I offer a list of suggestions that we can all begin doing. I offer this, because the one thing that unites us all, across all the worldly divides, is Jesus Christ who taught us to love the stranger, to care for the vulnerable, to show compassion and mercy, and to live outside of judgment in the freedom of grace.
For the women and children caught in the violence. For the men who prefer peace to war. For those who resist extremism. For those being persecuted and martyred for their courage to resist. And, because Jesus commanded us to do so, for our enemies.
Regardless of our opinion about proper policy regarding refugees, one things is certain: as Christians we must love them. Our language, our response, and our attitudes should reflect this. Our knee-jerk reactions usually aren’t very loving. They are usually self-serving. So in order to love, we must take a step back, take a deep breath, and ask ourselves, “Would someone overhearing this hear love in my words?” or “Would a passerby see love in my actions?” Sometimes, the greatest way to love is to learn to bite our tongue so that God can speak through us instead.
Prayer is never complete if it doesn’t lead us to action of some sort. God is more than a vending machine in which we inserts our hopes and desires and God in turn dispenses blessings. God is relational and will bring us into a deeper relationship–but that means we have to hold up our end if we want that relationship to grow.
There are numerous ways to help, below you will find some resources for various organizations I personally trust who are doing good work with refugees:
UMCOR–United Methodist Committee on Relief (because the United Methodist church supports this program, donations made to these funds are used entirely for the program donated to–we cover the overhead!)
The UN Refugee Agency–“The agency is mandated to lead and co-ordinate international action to protect refugees and resolve refugee problems worldwide. Its primary purpose is to safeguard the rights and well-being of refugees. It strives to ensure that everyone can exercise the right to seek asylum and find safe refuge in another State, with the option to return home voluntarily, integrate locally or to resettle in a third country.” (from the website)
UNICEF–“The United Nations Children’s Fund is a United Nations Program headquartered in New York City that provides long-term humanitarian and developmental assistance to children and mothers in developing countries” (Wikipedia)
WorldVision–“World Vision International is an Evangelical Christian humanitarian aid, development, and advocacy organization. It was founded in 1950 by Robert Pierce as a service organization to meet the emergency needs of missionaries.” (Wikipedia)