Throughout history the Church has aligned itself too often with monarchs, regimes, governments, and political parties that institute policies, practices, and philosophies that contravene Scripture and challenge Jesus’ teachings. In almost all of these instances the Church has sided with the powerful, wealthy, and influential at the expense of the weak, poor, and ostracized.
While such alliances have yielded power, prosperity, and prominence for the Church it has come at great cost, undermining and often severing its relationship with God. For those who view Christianity as nothing more than a means to achieve selfish and worldly goals, that consequence seems immaterial. But for believers who yearn to obey and glorify God, that effect is disastrous and troublesome.
Sadly, another example of this trend has emerged recently in this country. A growing number of voices within the Christian community (especially among Evangelicals and self-professed conservatives) have resisted plans to allow refugees from North Africa and the Middle East (particularly Syria) to enter the United States. They claim their motivation lies in protecting the nation’s safety and security, and insist that the possibility of terrorists hiding among refugees, however remote, combined with the government’s inability to identify and remove those terrorists before they cross our borders, requires a hardline stance against any program involving refugees from countries with a strong terrorist network. Some also argue we cannot afford to admit immigrants because the cost is too high.
Those positions, however, reveal a spirit of selfishness and a passion for maintaining the status quo. Worse, they demonstrate a remarkably ill-informed understanding of Scripture and a lack of faith in God. When did Jesus ever advise His followers to only do the right thing when it is safe, convenient, or inexpensive? Never. His message focused on helping and loving others no matter the cost. In fact, He went to great lengths to explain that His example of love, mercy, kindness, and generosity would impose considerable cost on His followers. We need look no further than the parable of the Good Samaritan to grasp this truth.
In that parable a man is attacked, robbed, and left for dead by thieves. Two self-righteous religious leaders (a priest and a Levite) come across the man on separate occasions and both move to the opposite side of the road to pass. They express no concern for his well-being or survival, and fail to offer love and kindness. Their faith is useless. Both men ignored the opportunity to demonstrate faith in substance by helping the stranger. Instead, both viewed him with contempt, treating him as a potential threat, an inconvenience, and a roadblock to more important things.
In contrast, the compassionate Samaritan saw the humanity of the injured man and exercised love, compassion, and mercy toward him even though it cost him time and money, and jeopardized his safety. His selfless sacrifice exhibited a notable contrast to the selfish pride of the two religious zealots. Jesus’ message could not have been clearer: Genuine faith always manifests itself in action, not in self-righteousness or outward appearances.
What does it say about God and our faith in Him, then, when we ignore His teachings in order to stay safe, remain comfortable, and enjoy the good life? In adamantly opposing the relocation of battered, marginalized, and oppressed refugees to the United States, our actions and language reveal a great deal about our beliefs. We are essentially telling God:
- “We do not believe you are powerful enough to protect us if we do the right thing and embrace your call to love others, especially our downtrodden neighbors in the Middle East.”
- “We do not believe you are omniscient and therefore cannot trust you to help our law enforcement community to identify and remove terrorists who might try to sneak in with beleaguered refugees.”
- “We do not believe you care about the safety, welfare, and survival of those escaping the brutalities of the Middle East and North Africa as much as you care about us maintaining our lifestyles of comfort, pleasure, and leisure.”
What a sad testament to the condition of our Christianity when we categorically ignore and reject what God’s word says about our responsibility to refugees and ‘the least of these’ and instead embrace a false gospel that declares our wealth, safety, and lifestyle of greater importance to God.
I wonder if, perhaps, God is using the tumultuous events in the Middle East, North Africa, and elsewhere to accomplish the Great Commission, which remains unfulfilled in part because we fail to prioritize it in our churches and our lives. While we have made some progress, we have not made nearly enough – especially in light of the overwhelming resources God has provided us. In a country where the average Christian gives about 2% of his income to the Church, and the Church spends more than 90% of its funds on programs, priorities, and capital projects that benefit its own congregants, it is safe to say we have been negligent in prioritizing God’s call to reach the world with His good news and His love.
So in His wisdom He might now be bringing the world to us; not just Syrians, Iraqis, and Somalians, but also Latin Americans and Asians. He is giving us a second chance to reach all tribes and nations of the world. And what is our response? Is it joyful celebration that God is providing us another opportunity to join Him in His work? No. It is vocal opposition to their admittance and advocacy for stronger laws that keep foreigners out.
With that response we risk failing God a second time. Moreover, what message does that response send the world? They might rightfully ask, ‘Where is your love, compassion, generosity, and mercy?’, and might reasonably conclude that any God whose people are so selfish and inwardly focused is no God worth pursuing. What a sad testimony to leave our non-believing friends, family, and neighbors. Let’s instead leave a legacy of God’s love in action and capitalize on the second chance He is offering us to make Him known to all peoples.
If instead we continue (as a nation and as Christians) to turn our backs on the oppressed, the hurting, the marginalized, and the condemned, it should not surprise us when God turns His back on us.