Refugee Crisis

Called as a Christian

Who are they? Where are they from? Should we take them in? What if something happens? Refugees. Merely mention the word and you will get a reaction, an opinion, or a debate. Most recently the debate in America has become whether this country should accept Syrian refugees. Legitimate concerns and cases are made for both sides. Is it compassion versus safety? What should the government do?

I don’t have the answer. However, as a Christian, is this really our concern? Are we called to think politically, change agendas, or enact policies? We are called to live a Christ-like life and so, regardless of the government’s decision, we are called to something else.

The Refugee Crisis

Syria has experienced four years of war, displacing more people from their homes than ever before. 3.8 million refugees have fled from their homes in Syria, making it the world’s largest source of displaced people.1 But they are only part of the refugee crisis. As ISIS continues to spread its power and violence, refugees are fleeing from Afghanistan and Iraq. These people seek refuge in Turkey, Lebanon, Greece and other close countries.

migrant-crisis-at-a-glance-780

Graphic used from CNN article.2

As Christians responding to the refugee crisis, what role should we play?

The Body of Christ

First, Christian persecution is a very real factor in the refugee crisis. Christians face death if they stay in their hometowns and countries. Some have chosen to take this risk, and some have fled. The Bible is very clear about our responsibility to both. “Remember them…which suffer adversity, as being yourselves also in the body” (Hebrews 13:3 ESV). The body of Christ is suffering. Pray for these brothers and sisters who are fleeing and taking the gospel with them. Pray for the ones that are staying and showing love to their enemies. Not only that, we can pray for their enemies (Matthew 5:44). Voice of the Martyrs (VOM) is an organization that seeks to serve the persecuted church through physical and spiritual assistance. They offer a free newsletter that is helpful in knowing how to pray (www.persecution.com), and the most common request of the persecuted church is for us to pray for them.

Motivated by Love

Secondly, what is our attitude? It is so easy to get caught up in the debating, the anger, and the tension that is only heightened by social media. But what is our motive? Janie B. Cheaney, a writer for WORLD magazine, recently wrote about the picture of the two-year-old that washed up on the shore of Turkey. Should this picture break our hearts? Should it cause us to plead to God about the sin and evil in the world? Yes. But should it cause us to feel guilty? Cheaney states that “our response is to show compassion and mercy wherever possible, because compassion and mercy are continually shown to us.”3 In whatever sphere God has called us to be His light, we should be motivated not by guilt, but by the love of Christ.

Some refugees are being brought to our doorsteps. World Relief is a Christian organization whose goal is to equip churches to serve the vulnerable in their communities.4 This organization has settled refugees in America and connects them with local people and churches.5

What is our attitude toward these people? What is our attitude toward Muslims in general? They desperately need to see the gospel and love of Jesus Christ displayed in our lives. So whether that means personally getting involved with someone who has moved to this country, or simply getting rid of derogatory attitudes and words, we need to align our thinking and actions with the Word of God.

Giving and Going

Finally, James 3:17-18 says, “But the wisdom that is from above is first…easy to be entreated, full of mercy…the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace of them that make peace” (KJV). If God is laying the refugee crisis on your heart, there are ways that you can go and serve. Plain Compassion is an organization that is getting involved on the front lines of the crisis in Iraq.

Todd Stauffer, who recently joined a Plain Compassion team working with the Kurdish people in Iraq, shared some of his experience. Teaching English, interacting with children, and building a schoolhouse were things their team tackled. Seeing and getting to know those he worked with changed his perspective of the Middle Eastern people, and can also reshape our stereotypes.

This organization has volunteer, stateside, and financial needs; and other organizations who are responding and serving on the front lines of the crisis, (such as VOM and Samaritan’s Purse), need financial support. Todd’s response was: “giving is the best way to help, whether time, money, or yourself.” Don’t give or go because you feel guilty, serve because “the love of Christ controls us…therefore we are ambassadors for Christ” (2 Corinthians 5:14, 20 ESV).

Everything for Hope

Imagine giving up the only life you have ever known and selling your earthly possessions to secure passage on a smugglers’ boat headed for the Greek island, Lesbos. Imagine saying goodbye to your home all for the hope of a better life somewhere. This is the story of many refugees. And though this might be unimaginable to me and to you, as Christians it shouldn’t be.

After listing the heroes of faith, Hebrews 11:13-16 states:

These all died in faith, not having received the things promised, but having seen them and greeted them from afar, and having acknowledged that they were strangers and exiles on the earth. For people who speak thus make it clear that they are seeking a homeland. If they had been thinking of that land from which they had gone out, they would have had opportunity to return. But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one (ESV).

We are sure in our hope of a better life. As Christians we know that a future is promised us and that whatever we sacrifice for Christ is infinitely worth it. And yet, even though these refugees have no assurance, they are willing to give up everything for hope in this life. Let this crisis remind us as Christians that we are also strangers and exiles in this world. Am I willing to give up everything to follow Christ in the hope of a heavenly future? Am I willing to give up everything to serve others, even refugees, not considering if they are my enemy or not? “Therefore let us go to him [Jesus] outside the camp and bear the reproach he endured. For here we have no lasting city, but we seek the city that is to come” (Hebrews 13:13-14 ESV).

Sadie Sadie Werner lives with her noisy, loving family in Mount Joy, Pennsylvania. She is excited about the adventure of life God is leading her on and desires to live full of His Spirit. Currently she attends Harrisburg Area Community College part-time, works part-time, and volunteers at a crisis pregnancy center. Usually found reading, she also enjoys being outside, going to coffee-shops and libraries, and playing piano. She dreams of one day publishing a book.

Sources used:

[1] Dean, Jamie. “Who Is My Neighbor?” WORLD. World News Group, 30 Oct. 2015. Web. 19 Nov. 2015.
[2] http://www.cnn.com/2015/09/11/world/syria-refugee-crisis-when-war-displaces-half-a-country/
[3] Cheaney, Janie. “Shame on Us?” WORLD. World News Group, 2 Oct. 2015. Web. 19 Nov. 2015.
[4] http://www.worldrelief.org/what-we-stand-for
[5] Dean, Jamie. “Who Is My Neighbor?” WORLD. World News Group, 30 Oct. 2015. Web. 19 Nov. 2015.

Photo credits:

Left header image: Katie Lapp
Right header image: Dave Esh

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