The Church and the Refugee Crisis

“Immigration without assimilation is invasion.” So say the politicos, and maybe they are right. “Immigration without assimilation is cultural suicide.” That may well also be true. But should either of these sentiments—or others that express similar thoughts—inform the Christian church in America how to respond to the refugee crisis? I think not.

When I hear these arguments proceeding from politicians, or even from concerned, intelligent, non-Christian Americans, they make perfect sense. This nation is, after all, their home and hope. Their citizenship resides here; they feel a loyalty to this nation and to its culture, and they desire to preserve it as it is. They rightly express concern over the religious affiliation of these immigrants, noting that it is not prejudice to exclude from your nation those who would seek to destroy her; it is common sense. But when Christians make these same arguments, we betray something faulty, not only in our thinking, but in our believing.

It has been said that many Christians are “so heavenly minded that they are no earthly good.” To a degree, I will take that as a compliment. A Christian’s heart ought to beat with loyalty toward his true citizenship in heaven, and with allegiance to Christ, and to the culture and Kingdom He has died to win. Each believer has been called out of the respective nations of this earth and into that eternal Kingdom, and must recognize that one day the kingdoms of this world—including America—will become the Kingdom of our God and of His Christ. If, however, we see ourselves as more fully American than Christian, we will begin to think of refugees as invaders, and those who are in crisis as a threat. And we will forget this truth: I am the refugee, living as a foreigner in a land not my own. I am sojourning here on my way to my true homeland, which is the eternal City of God within the Kingdom of Christ.

The Christian church is not responding with an instinct of mercy toward the refugee crisis. It is responding with an instinct of suspicion, which is fueled by nationalism, patriotism, and a commitment to the preservation of some mythical cultural “purity” in America. Those same refugees, whom so many people claim might possibly become terrorists, are also image bearers of God who might just as readily become Christians. Our instincts are perverted because we have taken more advice from Fox News than we have from the Bible. We are more committed to America than to the Kingdom of God. We value our personal security from earthly harm more than the eternal security of the lost. In short, we are far too American and not nearly as thoroughly Christian as we ought to be.

Let the politicians argue over refugees as they would other commodities. Let them make their wars of words and strike their backroom deals. But let the Church respond with mercy, eager to balm the wounds of the broken-hearted and displaced.

Will the complexion of your community change as a result of the presence of refugees? Yes. Might some of them commit crimes? Yes? Should either of those possible outcomes prevent the Church from holding forth the Gospel to these least among us? Only if you take your cue from the talking heads rather than from the Head of the Church.

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