On loving the refugees...
Like so many, my heart is so heavy after the events in Paris and around the world this weekend. My heart aches for our broken and hurting world. There are so many broken hearts, so many wounded souls, so many people left weeping and hurting and searching for answers. There are so many who have lost their homes, people they love, everything that they know.
If you have read some of my posts over the past couple of months, you probably already know that God has really burdened my heart for the refugee crisis in Europe and the Middle East. It’s a touchy subject, I know. What I am about to share is probably not the most popular opinion, and many will disagree with me. But it's something I just can't shake and that I have been really wrestling with. I've read so many of their stories. I've researched all sides of the issue. It is deep and complicated and difficult, and I agree with those who say that there are no simple answers. The problem is overwhelming, and there is so much fear.
So much fear.
On the one hand, there are real refugees - millions of them - who desperately need help. They are truly fleeing for their lives, to protect their families, to save their lives. Children are dying, families are starving, so many people are without a home. Many left because their homes were being destroyed, literally turned to rubble…they left because their children were being kidnapped, their girls were being raped, their friends were being shot and killed, their parents and cousins and brothers and sisters were being threatened, food was scarce and hope was gone…read their stories, listen to their voices, and you will see that they left because fear was all they breathed every single day. They have already faced a very difficult journey…a journey that has taken so many lives. They left everything they knew behind for the slim chance of finding a place where they could live without fear, where they could work and provide for their families, where their kids could go to school and play outside…a place they could call home. And now they are in the middle of an enormous crisis and they are hungry and homeless and they need help.
They truly need help.
At the same time, there is an evil that is very real too, an evil that is cunning and fierce and seeks to only destroy and dismantle with no regard for the value of human life...an evil that, yes, we must fight. And of course no one wants to knowingly invite that evil in, of course we need to fight for truth and justice, of course we need to stand against terrorism and the evil in this world and stand up for freedom and liberty.
And I have struggled with trying to reconcile the two: compassion for the refugees and desire for justice.
But what I’m coming to realize is that maybe I don't have to reconcile the two...because maybe it doesn’t have to be an either/or issue...we don't have to choose to either help the refugees OR fight the evil. I believe they actually can, and really should, go hand in hand.
Fight the evil AND help the refugees. Is that possible? Surely that is possible. There has to be a way.
I understand that many do not agree with me, but I unapologetically have compassion toward the refugees who are fleeing for their lives. Yes, I understand that most of them are Muslim. They were raised in a world very different from my own. They worship a different god, they have different customs and beliefs. But I do not believe they are all terrorists. And I also do not believe that I am called to only love and help those who believe like I do. If I only ever love and help other Christians, how in the world will those who do not know Jesus hear about Him and experience His love and grace?
I love because Jesus loves. Period. I love because I want them to know and experience the love the Jesus too. I desperately want to help them and feed them and give those children a home...I want them to see the love of God through those of us who call ourselves followers of Jesus. Many of these people have never met a Christian before, all they have known is a Muslim world and Islamic ideology…I pray they will see Jesus in the hearts and actions of those that they meet along their journey, that they will experience the love of the one true God who loves them so much that He sent His Son to die for them, and that many will come to know Him as a result. Jesus loves them and died for them just as much as He loves me and died for me…and because Jesus loves them, I love them too.
Is there a risk? Yes, of course there is a risk. But isn’t love always risky? And when did Jesus ever call us to live a safe and comfortable life? When did He ever tell us to keep those who are different at a distance and not let them get too close because they may pose a threat?
Some have asked if I would invite them into my own home, to sit at my own table…would I let any of these refugee families into my own home, with my own family? Would I invite the "enemy" to sit at my own table? I have asked myself those same questions, searched my own heart (which I have found leans toward its own set of prejudices and selfishness that I have had to face and wrestle with and work through, and am still working through). But the more I listen to the stories of the refugees, the more I learn about their horrific experiences and see the pain and fear in their eyes, the easier the answer has become for me:
Would I let them into my home? Yes!! In a heartbeat, yes! Give me those babies…I will kiss their sweet little cheeks and hold them in my arms. Let me sit beside those mamas, and I will hold their hands and tell them they are not alone. Let me look into the eyes of the fathers who gave up everything to save their families, and I will tell them that Jesus loves them with a love that is bigger than all their fears.
Let them in, and I will LOVE them!!
But just because I love the refugees doesn't mean I am naive and don't realize that there may be those who intend to do evil among them. There is always evil. There are always wolves in sheep’s clothing. But should I allow my fear of the wolves cause me to abandon all the sheep? That is the question that has been nagging at my heart. Use wisdom, yes…but wisdom that is fueled by compassion, not fear.
Jesus never promised that following Him would be safe. He never said it would be easy. He never promised me comfort or government protection. But He did promise that He would be with me. And if I have God Himself with me, do I really have anything in this world to fear? I am free to love and give and risk because I have the God of the universe with me, IN ME. The enemy has no power over me...his threats and his fear tactics will not keep me from following Jesus and doing what He has called me to do.
Should we fight the evil and fight for justice? Absolutely. But I believe that we can have compassion for the refugees *and* still fight for justice. In fact, I think part of the way we can fight all the injustice and evil in this world is by helping those who are the victims of it, regardless of where they are from or what they believe. I just don’t think we should allow fear to keep us from reaching out in love to help someone in need.
Yes, we should fight for justice and peace and seek out the terrorists and stop them. And yes, we should do what we can to protect our country and our families. And yes, we should do everything we can to meet the needs of the homeless and hurting here in our land too. But it is not an either/or decision. I firmly believe that we can do all that AND help the refugees who need help too...we don't have to abandon them in their great time of need just because they are Muslim...we should not turn our backs just because there is a threat of evil. Our God is greater than any evil in this world…He will help us and equip us to do what He has called us to do.
I don’t know why God has burdened me so heavy with this issue…and I certainly don’ t have all the answers. But I do have Jesus. And He has all the answers. He IS the answer. And one day He will return and wipe away all the tears and make all wrong things right and crush the enemy once and for all. But until then, I will do all that I can to love lavishly, give generously, risk selflessly, and fight relentlessly for justice…so that as many as possible can come to know the grace and the love and the forgiveness of Jesus. That's all that really matters in this life, anyway...helping people know Jesus. Because a hundred years from now, a thousand years from now, that's what will matter.
And if I can’t literally open my home to a refugee family and physically wrap my arms around them and show them the love of Jesus, then I will give to those who can…or I will go to them and do what I can…because I believe that their lives matter, and they need to know Jesus and experience His love.
Samaritan’s Purse and other wonderful organizations (like World Vision and Preemptive Love and many others) are on the ground in Europe and the Middle East doing some pretty amazing things to help those affected by this crisis. They’ve posted many videos that show what is going on and how they are helping:
Like this one:
and this one:
and this one:
If you take just a few minutes and listen to some of the stories, hear their hearts and open your own, maybe we will see that there is a great and wonderful opportunity here in the middle of this crisis to be the hands and feet of Jesus and share His love with those who have probably never experienced it before.
This is bigger than any political agenda. (I hate politics, honestly, and I have no desire at all to enter into any kind of political debate). My heart just aches for those who are suffering. I believe the enemy would love for us to lump all of the refugees into one hopeless, evil group that is unworthy of our help and compassion. But if Christians don’t reach out and help, if Christians don’t love them and share Jesus with them, who will?
“For everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved. But how can they call on Him to save them unless they believe in Him? And how can they believe in Him if they have never heard about Him? And how can they hear about Him unless someone tells them? And how will anyone go and tell them without being sent? That is why the Scriptures say, ‘How beautiful are the feet of messengers who bring good news!’ ” Romans 10:14-15, NLT
There are no easy answers. So what do we do?
We do what God has called us to do:
Jesus said, “You have heard the law that says, ‘Love your neighbor’ and hate your enemy. But I say, love your enemies! Pray for those who persecute you! In that way, you will be acting as true children of your Father in heaven. For he gives his sunlight to both the evil and the good, and he sends rain on the just and the unjust alike. If you love only those who love you, what reward is there for that? Even corrupt tax collectors do that much. If you are kind only to your friends, how are you different from anyone else? Even pagans do that. But you are to be perfect, even as your Father in heaven is perfect.” (Matthew 5:43-48, NLT)
“Be strong in the Lord and in His mighty power. Put on all of God’s armor so that you will be able to stand firm against all strategies of the devil. For we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places. Therefore, put on every piece of God’s armor so you will be able to resist the enemy in the time of evil. Then after the battle you will still be standing firm. Stand your ground, putting on the belt of truth and the body armor of God’s righteousness. For shoes, put on the peace that comes from the Good News so that you will be fully prepared. In addition to all these, hold up the shield of faith to stop the fiery arrows of the devil. Put on salvation as your helmet, and take the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. Pray in the Spirit at all times and on every occasion. Stay alert and be persistent in your prayers for all believers everywhere.” Ephesians 6:10-18, NLT
Those two passages do not contradict each other…we can do both...we should do both: love our "enemies" AND stand firm against the devil and the evil in this world. In fact, I believe that by doing one we are doing the other…by loving our enemies, despite the fear and the threats and the risks, that we are indeed standing firm against the schemes of the devil who would love nothing more than for us to give up and shut our doors and our hearts on entire groups of people in the name of our faith and our own protection.
I don’t know…maybe I’m crazy, maybe I’m emotional, maybe I’m unrealistic…but I believe God has called me to live a courageous and risky faith, a faith that lives out a love that is bigger than any fear the evils of this world can bring…a faith that reaches across borders and belief systems and loves people right where they are, just as they are, so that they can see and experience the love of Jesus who loves them and wants to rescue them...He gave His life for them, He defeated death and sin and the grave for them...He has already proved that He loves them, as He loves me, more than His own life…so maybe I should love them more than my own life, too?
And maybe, by loving them and helping them and reaching out in compassion to meet their needs and show them in real and tangible ways the love of Jesus...maybe, just maybe, those who we now call our enemies will one day be our friends, our brothers, our sisters...our family.