December 02, 2015
Damon Schroeder and his wife Crystal are long-time members of Church of the Resurrection. Damon works at World Relief, where he is currently coordinating the response to the Syrian refugee crisis in Europe, US and the Middle East.
In the wake of the horrific terror attacks in Paris last month, many Americans are experiencing new fears for their safety and security. Valid questions pour in about the U.S. refugee resettlement screening process. Securing personal safety – in the face of sometimes overwhelming fear – drives these understandable questions.
Answers are not difficult to come by; but not every answer is actually grounded in the facts. Ideological agendas have seeded an answer-seeking rumor mill that spreads myths-as-fact via social media. As Charles Spurgeon quipped, "A lie can travel halfway around the world, while the truth is still putting on its boots."
Church leaders like Leith Anderson, President of the National Association of Evangelicals, have called for reasonable security combined with Christian compassion, "Of course we want to keep terrorists out of our country, but let's not punish the victims of ISIS for the sins of ISIS." "It is completely right to ensure that the United States have a strong process to discern who are truly refugees and who are trying to take advantage of refugees," says Russell Moore of the Southern Baptist Convention's Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, but "we cannot love our neighbors at the same we're standing aside and watching them be slaughtered."
Screening out terrorists is imperative and is the responsibility of our country's national security agencies. That said…as Christians, what is our unique responsibility as followers of Jesus in all of this? What should we be most concerned about – should it be our safety?
Let's take a step back. What if we moved from a security-centered refugee conversation to a Jesus-centered refugee conversation? It might look like exploring the Scriptures surfaced in Relevant Magazine's article, "What the Bible Says about How to Treat Refugees." It might also look like Christians in the West learning from Christians in the majority world who face terror and persecution daily as explained in the Christianity Today article, "Terrorists are Now the Persecuted Church's Greatest Threat." It might look like Christians asking the question, "What is God up to?" like the Desiring God blog that sees a sovereign God purposefully bringing the nations (rather than fear) to our shores.
A Jesus-centered refugee conversation might cause us to remember that we are in fact following a Middle Eastern Refugee Savior whose family fled a genocide to Egypt. We might remember that our biblical identity as "strangers and aliens" here on earth makes us Christians first and Americans second – not the other way around.
A Jesus-centered refugee conversation might look like learning how to follow a God who "did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all" (Romans 8:32). This same sacrificial God commands us to "welcome the stranger" and "love him [the immigrant] as yourself" (Leviticus 19:34).
And as we move from conversation to action, how might we respond? Welcome a vulnerable refugee family into your community by exploring how to join a Rez Good Neighbor Team.
In this Advent season, let's make sure that our fears are not being whipped up by rumors or by a loss of focus on Jesus the Refugee. Following Him as we welcome Muslim Syrian refugees into our homes and hearts might be the courageous mission He is inviting us to join.
Let's engage a candid, forthright conversation about the Syrian refugee crisis on Sunday, December 13th from 1-2:30pm in the Gregory Room at Rez. See you then!