I’ve been feeling the need to chime in on the refugee issue brought on by President Trump’s executive order. I’ve delayed partly because of personal schedule, but mostly because I prefer first to listen to others far more qualified with thoughtful contributions on a complicated matter. One can find plenty of biblically-informed, well-reasoned and balanced statements/opinions on the political decisions, the security issues, the international implications, etc. So I humbly offer a few thoughts on this discussion, with emphasis on what the Scriptures have to say.
First, the concept of “refuge” is widely represented in the Bible. In settling the Promised Land, Israel was commanded to set aside the equivalent of‘sanctuary cities’ throughout the territory. The Law and the Prophets established and reminded the people to seek the welfare of the sojourner, the alien, the foreigner (today’s immigrant). This involved protection, generosity, seeking justice on their behalf, and practicing hospitality. These commands are all rooted in this incredibly repetitive and therefore, emphatic reminder: “For you yourselves were foreigners in Egypt” referring to Israel’s 400+ years as slaves. (e.g. Deuteronomy 10:18-19). In the New Testament, Jesus’ parable of the Good Samaritan is really an indictment against those who would consider themselves “religious” but who ignore the plight of the vulnerable!
I know, many people will say, “Yes, we should be compassionate, and offer sanctuary to those who are most vulnerable, who are in need of protection… BUT we need to be really careful and never compromise national security.” I’m all for national security. I’m all for doing our best to screen immigrants for terrorist ties. But in my reading, it appears that the vetting process was already very strong and very effective. Perfect? Absolutely not. Much of that is in the execution, not just in the policy. But all of this leads to this question for biblical Christians, “From where does our security come?” To what extent do we believe (or deluded into thinking) that we can produce/manage our own safety/security/prosperity/
There’s risk to loving! Any time you open the door to real relationship, you risk getting hurt. Any time you invite or share, you risk thanklessness or lack ofany return. If you let Jean Valjean (Les Miserables) crash at your place, he might steal your silver candlesticks. But “Christ’s love compels us… and he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them” (2 Corinthians 5:14-15).
There’s a messiness to following after Christ. He was criticized for partying with all the wrong kinds of people! He was ridiculed for loving the loveless, for touching the unclean, for sharing a meal with those whom society had written off. As followers of this Savior who died for undeserving, deserving-of-death, dangerous sinners like us, how can we ignore the plight of the world’s cast-off? Strict protectionism flows out of a self-righteous attitude. To paraphrase the Pharisee in prayer, “Lord, I thank you that I am not like those sketchy refugees whose motives are questionable; who will simply be a drain on our/my resources.” But are we not a nation of immigrants? And more importantly, are we not a people redeemed by the blood of the Lamb? And in NO way people who were ‘clean’ enough, respectable enough, safe enough to deserve rescue/deliverance/salvation? Real, pure, shocking Grace changes everything, or at least it should. Some of you might say that this perspective is too simplistic. It doesn’t sufficiently treat the nuances of all of these policy decisions. But could it be that the biblical mandates are quite simple. A life offollowing after and obeying the Lord Jesus is straightforward in principle, but it’s WE who make it complicated with our justifications, complex reasonings, and what-if scenarios.
FYI: a couple of weeks ago, I did sign the World Relief petition which expresses serious concerns to the President and Vice-President about the executive order. Check it out, and (taking a deep breath…) let me know your thoughts on this whole matter.
Grace to you,
Peter Wang, Senior Pastor