Over the last few days I've seen this topic covered, rehearsed and beat to death. I like what my buddy Daniel Edwards said, "Have you seen Facebook? It's a dumpster fire right now!" He's right. People are upset, scared, angry and every other emotion.
I want to make something clear. I'm not asking how should the country deal with refugees from Syria because:
- I have no control over that
- Neither do you... unless you're in DC reading this, then maybe.
- The NT doesn't deal with how governments should operate. It deals with how we should respond as believers to the government (more on that in a later post).
- There isn't much we can do at this point legally from our position as US residents (aside from giving to the causes and praying for the families).
Our guide in all of life is scripture. Let's start there. James 1:27 says, “Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.”
I'm addressing this issue as a believer and as a pastor. First let me tell you where we are at as believers at the Neppl household. I was encouraged to hear my wife say what my heart had been feeling. She told me if at all possible we should open our home to orphans coming out of Syria. My go to move was hit up that google. It didn't take long to realize that isn't possible. Syria is under Sharia law and doesn't recognize the US for adoption at all. Also, adoption during civil wars is basically impossible and doesn't help. Here's an article with more about that. Next, I thought, "We'll just open our home to a refugee family!" Again, much easier said than done, especially now that the House is mounting pressure to stop refugees from coming to America. To sum it: Casie and I want to help, but do it in a legal way that helps more than it hurts. This will not be something we can just make happen overnight. The good news is Bethany Christian Services is looking (especially in MI) for families to host refugees (not just Syrian refugees). More on that here. We hope to help, but are still at the beginning stage of compassion. Navigating the best way to turn compassion into help is difficult, but we are hopeful.
Now, let me address it as a pastor at Restore. I have noticed on Facebook that in our congregation we have a plethora of opinions on this subject. Hear this: that is good! I'm glad we don't all think alike. My word of caution to our people is simple: let's lead with compassion for mankind, err on the side of caring for the orphan, and speak in love. Some have very dogmatic positions about what the country should do. My concern is what we do as believers and as the church.
I have a few recommendations to our people:
Speak in love. Hear your brother or sister out. I know this issue is divisive, but don't let it rob you of relationship with your fellow believers.
Read more than one news source on this issue. Don't let FOX, MSNBC or CNN tell you what to think. When we only read what we lean toward, we reinforce the bubble that limits our relationships.
Read up on what good non-profits are already doing for refugees. Here is what Bethany has been doing (now suspended by current state law) in Michigan. World Vision is also dealing with the crisis on the ground. Here's a link. When we can't go to the mission field we give so others can. The same sacrifice must then be encouraged here. When we can't go, we give. Consider supporting an organization that is assisting the millions of hurting people.
Live in light of love, not fear. Jesus came to free us from fear, bondage and sin. I personally refuse to allow fear to drive the decisions I make. Ultimately, if God has called us to compassion, He'll protect the mission. I hear the common sense argument. I do. I absolutely believe the government should use common sense. I believe they do (thus a 2 year process for any refugee). I believe though, that my faith, my love, my compassion should be unreasonable. Jesus called his followers to radical faith. Most of Jesus' disciples died violent deaths loving people far from God. Therefore my encouragement to you as a believer is to be an individual with radical love and compassion.
I know some of our people won't agree with everything I've written here. That's okay. Our goal is respectful dialog. I can love you and disagree. That's the beauty of our faith. We have Jesus in common. We don't have to agree on everything, just the main thing.
I'll talk a little more on this subject Sunday as it relates closely to our topic of community and diversity. See you there at 5PM.