Immigration isn’t an easy topic with easy answers. Even the questions are hard. Add the dynamic of refugees—immigrants fleeing war, persecution, famine…or even economic hardship—and everything just gets more challenging. But look into a refugee’s eyes for a few minutes and something changes. The questions are still hard; the answers don’t come any easier. But you see not a number or a statistic, you see a human being – a person. And behind those eyes is a story….
The Syrian refugee crisis has divided our country. Yes, a nation less than 2% the size of the US and over 7,000 miles away has divided us.
Some want to help the refugees—as long as they stay over there; some want to welcome them to the US with open arms; some want to ignore the crisis altogether, arguing that we have our own problems to worry about.
The crisis has divided the Church, too, and along similar lines. I’d like to say it is as simple as choosing fear or love, but nothing is simple.
What got me thinking about this now was my reading in Jeremiah 42. Nebuchadnezzar had ransacked Jerusalem and taken the best and the brightest back to Babylon. Those who remained asked Jeremiah the prophet to pray for them so that “God may show us the way we should go, and the thing that we should do.” (Given their track record of disobedience, it’s a wonder they asked at all.)
The word that came back from God was, shall we say, counter-intuitive. With Nebuchadnezzar still threatening, it certainly didn’t make them feel any better, either. In essence, God said, Don’t fight. Don’t be afraid. Don’t run away.
It wasn’t what they wanted to hear, and they didn’t obey.
I wonder how well we would obey. What if a prophet from God said to American Christians today, Don’t be afraid of the refugees. Welcome them to your country, your communities, your homes. Help them. Love them.
“But terrorists may come in, too!” we argue.
“Yes, I know,” replies God.
“But they’ll live off our taxes and get medical care for free!” we complain.
“Yes, I know,” God says. “Don’t be afraid. Welcome them. Help them. Love them.”
Sometimes what God says doesn’t make sense. It isn’t safe. It doesn’t seem right. That’s when faith comes in. That’s when obedience comes in.
Because disobedience isn’t safe, either.