The issue regarding the refugee crisis has become more than a political and religious hot button. It is now causing division among nations, churches and friends. “My brothers, this should not be!” (James 3:10)
The first thing to consider when engaging in a matter of this complexity is to admit we do not have the necessary biblical knowledge, since Scripture does not expressly address the subject. None of us possess all the necessary information to make a “thus saith the Lord” declaration over this heated issue. In other words, humility must be at the forefront on a matter of such import. There is no singular answer to multi-complex issues. The refugee problem is cultural, religious, social, economic, and national. Any misstep in the handling of it could prove catastrophic for the future of the world. The Bible is clear on many matters, but not on all matters. Immigration of refugees is one of those debatable subjects. Let’s take a look at why this is such a difficult issue to navigate.
Suppose you strongly believe we should allow all refugees into the U.S. The verses you might employ in defense of your position will contain love, compassion and mercy. You will talk about how Jesus loved all people and went after the poor and disenfranchised. You will want to bring in the fact that God is not a respecter of persons. And these are all valid points. However, if you are on the side of those who say don’t let any refugees in, you will select a very different set of verses. Certainly you will want everyone to know that God’s chosen people didn’t just let anyone into their world. In fact, you will point out that God told Israel to wipe out whole nations.
We also need to factor in our spiritual gifting and personal biases. If you are a mercy person, you may say, “Let’s care for all these people!” But if you’re a prophet or more truth-oriented person, you might say, “Let’s protect our own people!” There is also the issue of mixing apples and oranges. Some commands in Scripture are given to an individual (such as “thou shalt not kill”) while others are given to governments (such as “rulers do not bear the sword in vain.”) The government is commissioned to protect us from evildoers (Romans 13:3-4). By contrast, the love chapter of 1 Corinthians 13 is directed toward the individual and says, “Love always protects.”
So who is right – the let’s bring ‘em in or the let’s keep ‘em out? Which is it? Protect our families from terrorists at the expense of letting innocent people suffer? Or let all of the refugees in, knowing terrorists will enter with them and innocent people will be killed?
Who can answer all these questions? Not me. I have some thoughts, but none of which I would die for. What we are facing is the call to show compassion to all and the call to protect our own. These seem to be competing views, yet both are found in Scripture, and we are called to hold to the truth that God never contradicts Himself. Abraham was given the promise of God that he would have a son, but when the son arrived, he was told by God to offer up his son. We now have God’s promise being negated by His command. Now what? Abraham was certain God could not lie, and thus believed the only way out was that God would raise his son from the dead.
Perhaps that’s where we are with these two competing commands in Scripture – protect and love. I believe the answer is found in the church humbling itself before the Lord and seeking His guidance on this matter. He may actually give different directions at different times and in different ways. He has certainly done so with Israel and the church in the past. He may do it again. No matter what side you are on, you will be confronted by the other side with endless statistics and verses that prove the rightness of their position. You will no doubt return the favor. At this moment, I am really praying and reading Scripture while also getting advice from people who know far more than I do on the subject. So no, I don’t have a hard and fast stand. When I do, I will put it out there.
But here is what I do have a strong view on: the way Christians are treating each other over this issue. A recent post on Facebook says that if you don’t believe in bringing all the refugees in, then you don’t believe the gospel. I have no problem with this person expressing their view, but I do have concerns as to how it was expressed. Using Scripture as a weapon for the purpose of intimidating those who disagree only angers the other side and exacerbates an already volatile situation. Suppose I said if you don’t witness everyday you don’t believe the gospel? How might you react?
There are clear guidelines in Scripture as to how we are to communicate. “Let your speech be seasoned with salt” (Colossians 4:6), and “Let no corrupt communication proceed from your mouth but that which ministers grace to the hearer” (Ephesians 4:29). Could it be that such divisive issues become training grounds for believers to learn the value of “Iron sharpening iron” (Proverbs 27:17), or “Speaking the truth in love” (Ephesians 4:15)?
Perhaps if we learn to obey what is clear, God will reveal to us what is not clear. One thing that is certain: Obedience leads to greater illumination of his revelation, and unity is the fruit of corporate humility.