I am so conflicted with the terrorism throughout the world, and now refugees coming to America. My first reaction is to say "no!", there may be terrorists among them. My humanity is to protect my country and my loved ones. But as a Christian, we are taught to feed the hungry; clothe the naked; house the homeless; pray for our enemies; and to love one another. Do we fight this, or accept it? Is there a clear, biblical answer?
Post by Mike Miller on Nov 17, 2015 11:35:34 GMT -5
Thank you for asking this question. I think you're expressing an internal conflict many Christians are having right now.
To begin with, let's just consider the situation at hand. The International Organization for Migration says that in 2014, 280,000 migrants were detected at the borders of the European Union. So far this year, that number is over 750,000. These people are migrating from northern Africa, the Middle East, and eastern Europe, with the most recent surge coming from Syria. Why are they migrating? The vast majority of them are simply trying to find a better life for themselves and their families. Specifically, the surge from Syria is primarily caused by the rise of ISIS, as ISIS is slaughtering and oppressing anyone who gets in their way. This means that ISIS is murdering Muslims as well as Christians. Most of the migrants are Muslims, many of whom are oppressed, and most (if not all) of whom are living in poverty with little hope for a better future.
As you can imagine, this is creating a huge humanitarian and financial crisis for those countries through which most of the migrants arrive in western Europe, especially Greece and Macedonia. Therefore, countries in the European Union have been taking in many of the refugees, typically placing a limit on the number they can handle. President Obama has recently committed the United States to absorbing and and settling up to 10,000 of these migrants.
Now, here is where the controversy arises, and several factors contribute. First, America is already facing an immigration crisis, and we are deeply divided and conflicted as to how to handle the millions of illegal immigrants who are already here as well as how to regulate future immigration. The idea of taking in another 10,000 migrants and shouldering the costs associated does not sit well with many people. Second, at least one of the terrorists in the attacks on Paris last week posed as an asylum seeking immigrant from Syria--a ruse to gain entry into the country in order to kill people. Many Americans are concerned that such evildoers will be among the 10,000 that we readily receive, not trusting the federal government to vet them all thoroughly. Third, since Islam breeds so much violence, and since all known terrorist threats to our country come from radical Muslims, many Americans would like to halt all immigration for Muslims.
But how are we as Christians supposed to regard and react to the proposed settlement of these migrants within our borders? Our conflict comes from the clear commands in Scripture to love our enemies and to show kindness to everyone as well as the clear commands to love justice. Specifically, the Old Testament is clear about how to treat foreigners/sojourners. They are to be shown compassion and justice. We are not to wrong them or oppress them, and they are both subject to and protected by the same laws as everyone else (see Exodus 22:21; 23:9; Leviticus 19:33-34; Numbers 35; Jeremiah 22:3, just to name a few). We don't see such a specific emphasis on foreigners/sojourners in the New Testament, however, because the people of God were no longer a national entity, but rather a global movement (the church). Nevertheless, Jesus is quite clear about how to treat people--even our enemies--and that kindness and compassion are to be extended to everyone (Matthew 5:43-44, for example). Of course, the New Testament also teaches that governments and rulers are set in place by God to keep peace and deal with evildoers (Romans 13:1-7). So should we oppose the settlement of these migrants in our country, or should we advocate for them?
The issue, as you know, is not a simple one, therefore the answer cannot be simple either. But let me propose some biblically informed ideas:
First (in order, not priority), we are to be people of justice. ISIS is harming and killing people. We should want that stopped as quickly as possible, and we should support our government (and other governments) using violent means to stop the violence. We should pray for wisdom for political and military leaders and safety for the enforcers in carrying out decisive justice against the evildoers.
Second, we should pray for our brothers and sisters in Christ who are suffering at the hands of ISIS. We should pray for their safety and for their strength and courage in the face of violence. We should pray that Jesus will be on display as the only treasure worth living and dying for. We should also pray for the conversion of Muslims who are likewise being targeted by ISIS (this is happening, by the way). And we should even pray for the conversion of members of ISIS. As someone said (and I'll provide the link to an article where this is mentioned below), perhaps the next Saul of Tarsus is currently fighting with and for ISIS.
Third, we should advocate for immigration reform that both increases border security and provides a manageable and legal means for controlled legal immigration into our country. I want to be clear that desiring strong border security is not inhumane or racist. I lock my doors at night. I do not do so because I don't trust all my neighbors. I do so because there are bad people out there (a very small percentage of the population) who would desire to do me harm. I control who may enter my house, not because I don't have compassion, but because I want to protect my family and because I can only afford to feed, clothe, and house so many people. And when it comes to these 10,000 we're currently concerned about, we should want our leaders to do what is in the best interest of our country since that's their job, but we should also want to take part in alleviating the suffering of people if we can do so in a rational and safe way (more below).
Fourth, we should love and be kind to everyone in our community. If people are hungry, we should feed them. If people are homeless, we should provide shelter. By the way, we do this together by forming compassion ministries that provide necessary services. And as we do all of this, we should share the Gospel with them. Might there be some terrorists among these people? Yes. Wouldn't it be wonderful if we actually got to win a terrorist to Jesus? And wouldn't it be wonderful to win Muslim refugees to Jesus? Really, can you think of anything more wonderful than that?
So, in answer to you question regarding these proposed 10,000 refugees specifically, as to whether we "fight this, or accept it," I would say that we as Christians should relish the opportunity to be the hands and feet of Jesus to hurting, oppressed, impoverished, and frightened people. We should demand that our government take whatever steps possible to try to keep out any suspected terrorists. But we should not turn our backs on suffering people just because some of them could be evildoers. Think of it like this. In recent years, we have seen some people enter churches and open fire. This has caused us to increase our security and awareness and to implement policies to protect our people in our churches. But is anyone suggesting that we keep out all visitors just in case a violent person sneaks in? Do we require membership before someone attends our public gatherings? Of course not. We take some risk. And we do so for the sake of the Gospel. That's what I am advocating here. Let's urge our government to be smart (I know, I know, that's a stretch) and take necessary steps to protect us. But let's not shut the door on people who need the Gospel. Jesus never called us to be afraid or to avoid risk. Quite the opposite. He called us be willing to forfeit our lives for His sake and for the sake of the Gospel. Let's be people of the Kingdom above all else. This also means that even if you oppose the settlement of these refugees in America, once they are here, you should do what you can to love them and win them to Jesus.
Post by Matt Tipton on Nov 17, 2015 11:58:13 GMT -5
"Wouldn't it be wonderful if we actually got to win a terrorist to Jesus? And wouldn't it be wonderful to win Muslim refugees to Jesus? Really, can you think of anything more wonderful than that?"
No, I can't think of many things more wonderful than the dead coming to life, the blind gaining spiritual eyes and lost being found...
As many have heard, a few refugees have been relocated to Kenner. I contacted our city council today to find out who is managing their transition, how long they have been here and how the churches in Kenner can engage in serving our new neighbors. I'll keep you posted on what I learn. Its another way to be the hands and feet and voice of our savior to the weak, poor and hurting.
Thank you, Mike, for such a thought-provoking answer to a confusing situation. It sheds a whole new light on how I, as a Christian, should approach this, and present it to others feeling the same conflict.
Post by Mike Miller on Nov 17, 2015 15:23:17 GMT -5
Arm--Just curious. Do you disagree that we should seek justice, protect our borders, love our enemies, or win Muslims to Jesus? I'm not trying to argue, as I do not pretend to have the authoritative answers to any of this. I'd just like for you to give a reasoned and biblical response so that I might consider where I might be wrong. Any input would be appreciated.
Hey, Pastor Mike. My question is similar but a little different. We keep hearing Christians say that we have nothing to fear because even if we die, we will live in the next life. I agree with this statement, but I have difficulty with it because even though I believe that I will go to heaven, I personally have many friends and loved ones who may not. It's hard for me to accept that all terrorists can do is kill us, because if they kill some of the people I know, it will be a drastically different outcome for them. I thought your sermon was very timely this past Sunday, especially about preparing to die and helping others prepare to die. But my question is: How do I not fear this situation when I know that the consequences of an attack would be that many people I care for would never know God?
Post by Mike Miller on Nov 18, 2015 9:34:10 GMT -5
Jillian--Great insight. Let me answer it in a couple of ways.
First, a little context for my comments about not fearing those who can only kill the body (Luke 12:4-7). The sad truth is that most Christians are very concerned about their own welfare but not for the eternal welfare of others. That might sound harsh and judgmental, but the fact that most Christians never share the Gospel with unbelievers substantiates this claim. If I were preaching to a room full of people (or writing to an audience) who are really concerned about the non-Christians around them, my message would be different (though not contradictory). The main problem for Christians is that we fear rejection or embarrassment over the eternal destinies of our loved ones and acquaintances. Currently we're more afraid of a possible terrorist threat while showing little or no concern for the well-being of suffering people who are trapped in a false belief system. Therefore, when talking about potential terrorist activity, my focus has been: Stop being afraid for your well-being, and start being concerned with the salvation of the foreigners who are coming to your neighborhood. In fact, in all my discussions, you are the only person who has voiced this particular concern rather than the concern for personal safety (not that others don't share your concern, but you're the only one to bring it up to me personally).
Now, about being afraid for my non-Christian friends and family, I appreciate your concern. I'm just not sure that fear is necessarily what we should be feeling since we don't see that expressed in Scripture. What we do see is grief (Romans 9:1-3) and urgency (Acts 17:29-31) where unbelievers are concerned. What this means is that we should have real concern for the unbelievers around us. We should pray for their salvation and do all we can to win them to Jesus. However, fear is not the best emotion. Let me give you two reasons why.
First, while everyone around us is afraid, we can demonstrate a peace and confidence that stands in stark contrast to unbelievers. We know and trust--not only that our own souls are safe--but that God is in absolute control. Uncertain times like these provide excellent opportunities for us to shine as light in the darkness.
Second (and related to the first), is that the fear of terrorists could be the exact means God uses to wake people up to their own mortality. Unbelievers around us, when faced with the potential of violence, could start thinking about their own eternal destinies. Then, as we walk in peace, we demonstrate the truth of the Gospel of which we have been telling them. God has used fear along with the testimony of believers before to turn hearts toward Him (I'm thinking of the Philippian jailer in Acts 16, the episode with the sons of Sceva in Acts 17, and the storm at sea in Acts 27).
Therefore, I do not advocate foolhardiness, and I think we need to be very wise and careful about letting anyone into our country, especially those who present a potential risk to our security. In fact, I even advocate profiling and placing higher scrutiny on travelers and migrants from the Middle East. I am for better border security and the enforcement of current immigration laws. I have very real concerns about the settling of Syrian migrants and hope that they are vetted well, especially young single men. However, if they come to your neighborhood, I would recommend praising God for both the opportunity to reach out to them in love with the hope of the Gospel and the opportunity to talk to your neighbors about the source of your hope, peace, security, and compassion.
Good words my friend. We're discussing Paul's ministry during our study of "The Story." I wondered if Saul (pre-conversion Paul) would be the poster-child of ISIS or al-Qaeda in our present-day situation. Can you imagine what would happen if the zeal of these individuals was, like Saul's / Paul's, directed toward the spread of the gospel instead of the persecution of the gospel (and of mankind for that matter)? Much to pray for.
In Ecclesiastes 3 we see there is a time a time for everything, including a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing. Embracing Muslims who we are unsure of is not wise, especially since it is believed that one of the murderers in France used refugee status to enter the country.
The Old Testament does give laws as to how we are to treat the foreigner, but it "assumes" that the foreigner does NOT have ill intentions toward the people living in the land. The people who governed were appointed to protect the people. They were overseers. One of our overseers in America continually praises Muslims no matter how much carnage they commit. Should we be silent and accept threats to our family? No. Should we blindly accept danger to our communities because of misinterpretations of the Bible? No.
Jesus and the Law: Jesus did not abolish the Law, but many if not most Christians believe he did from what I see. Verses like "Turn the other cheek, forgive or your Father in heaven will not forgive you, if you look at a woman with lust it is the same thing as adultery, etc... If Christians do not understand that Jesus was not abolishing the Law with new Laws, they will never understand God's Holy Word and they will never be able to apply them to situations like the one we are facing today. Jesus was showing everyone how extreme the Law was, and that no one on Earth could do it except one-Jesus. Listen carefully, should a Christian "turn the other cheek?" It depends; if someone literally puts a Christian in danger, that Christian needs to protect himself. If someone hurts his pride, that Christian might have to turn the other cheek. If that Christian is a Police Officer and someone slaps him, that Police Officer needs to restrain the offender and bring him to jail and charge him with the Law of the land. Another example, if you hate your brother or sister you are a murderer (1 John 3). When I was younger I hated my brothers many times, especially if I couldn't control them. Does this mean I should have been brought to jail and put on trial for murder? No! Jesus through John was exposing our soul/hearts, and he was expounding on the LAW. In verse 11 we see that Cain murdered his brother. Guess what, there was no Law including the Death Penalty before the flood. You know the story, wickedness was out of control, then God through Noah destroyed the Earth. Almost immediately after the flood God starts laying down the law including the Death Penalty. Later Moses gives the fullness of the Law. Hopefully Christians will understand that Jesus did Not invent or do away with any Law. And again let me be clear, "what Jesus said was beautiful and true, but NOBODY can keep the LAW." And Remember Christians, Jesus NEVER quoted the New Testament; he always quoted (partially/fully) the Old Testament. "The reason why this is significant is because liberals and "liberal Christians" will throw scriptures like the ones I listed at Christians to shame them or convince them into the belief that we should take in Syrian Muslims.
How are we honoring God by inviting destruction into our camp? We lock our houses and cars up for a reason. Are we honoring our mother and father by risking the lives of our families on a group of people who occasionally murder the infidels?
We are called to love all, but let us be wise.
Now I've got to get something to eat, be blessed in the name above all names: JESUS.
Post by Mike Miller on Nov 19, 2015 10:18:26 GMT -5
Arm (and by the way, I have no idea who Arm is)--Thanks for your reply. I have just a few questions/comments. First, you state that the Old Testament commands about how to treat foreigners "'assumes' that the foreigner does NOT have ill intentions toward the people living in the land." Can you please substantiate that with Scripture? I would say that such assumption is not present since the foreigner was required to live according to the same laws as the Jews, meaning that the assumption was that some of the foreigners would be lawbreakers.
Second, Ecclesiastes 3 does indeed say there is "a to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing." Would you be open to the possibility that this is the perfect time to embrace Syrian refugees? Could it be that we have been trying unsuccessfully to get to the towns and villages of unreached people in Syria and other countries for the sake of the Gospel, and that God has graciously seen fit to bring them to us? I would hate to think that God's plan to reach these people is to bring them to our neighborhoods, and we would reject that opportunity because we are afraid some of them might be dangerous. Again, are you open to considering that possibility?
Third, what is your point in your remarks about Jesus and the law? That whole section is very confusing to me. Do you think you could summarize in a sentence or two? If your point is that we should still take the Law seriously, then you would seem to be making my case for me about how the law required we treat foreigners among us.
Fourth, you talk about "liberals" and "liberal Christians" who "throw Scriptures . . . at Christians." Could you please explain what that means? Specifically, what is the difference between quoting Scripture to make one's case and throwing Scriptures to shame another? Have I been quoting/referencing Scripture in my effort to be true to Scripture, or have I been throwing at people in an effort to shame them? Do you consider me a liberal? If so, please define "liberal" and provide evidence to support your claim.
Fifth, you mentioned locking your doors and protecting your family. I also mentioned that in my original post. Are you saying that you would never allow a Muslim man into your home because of the possibility that he could be a terrorist? And if so, how do you reconcile that with biblical commands to show hospitality (such as Hebrews 13:2)?
Sixth, of the 8 terrorists who launched the attack in Paris, 5 were French, 2 were Belgian, and one is unidentified, but he was found with the stolen passport of a Syrian refugee next to his body. No definitive conclusion has been reached as to whether he was a refugee or not. Therefore, of about 1,000,000 refugees so far, one tenuous link exists to the Paris attacks, and that is only by the presence of a stolen Syrian passport. Can you explain why you find that sufficient evidence to keep all Syrian refugees out of America? Furthermore, can you explain why you would want to keep all the women and children refugees out as well? My wife will be in Europe (for security reasons I can't say where) all of next week working with women and children from Syria and other Mediterranean countries. They are not terrorists or even hateful. They are simply trying to escape terrible conditions, including the violence of ISIS, and to find a better life for them and their families. Do you believe your reference to Ecclesiastes 3 and your insistence that Jesus did not abolish the law warrant the refusal of all refugees just in case someone with ill intentions slips in? Is that really the biblical way?
Finally, if against your wishes, Syrian refugees settle in your neighborhood, how will you treat them? Will you pray for them and serve them and share the Gospel with them? I'm just curious as to how you think we should deal with them if they do in fact come.
Arm--please know that I'm not trying to be argumentative. I'm really trying to have healthy dialogue as I am personally trying to form a biblical perspective in my own mind about what is a complex issue. If I am missing something biblically, I want someone to show me. Thanks for you input.