A few months ago it was a blue/white dress. Last week it was a red cup. This week it’s refugees. Apparently we can’t figure out what to do with them. Do we accept them? Do we close our borders? Do we aid them overseas? Do we force other countries to foot the bill? No matter where you stand on the issue, get ready, because there is a line of people waiting to tell you that you’re wrong.
You’re either heartless or careless. Apparently there’s no in between. Trust me, I’ve tried to find it to no avail. This week I’ve been misunderstood, taken out of context, labeled, dismissed, and have had my intelligence questioned more than once. Oh, and that’s just by the Christ-followers.
This has caused me to think a great deal, not only on this topic, but on the way we are talking about it, and I thought it fitting to jot down a tidy little list of things we need to remember as we discuss this topic.
1. Beware the Extremes
I have seen some vitriolic stuff posted about these refugees. One extreme is that they are nothing but jihadi terrorists waiting to kill us in our sleep and burn down our cities. The other extreme is that they are nothing but widows and orphans. The actuality is that it is somewhere in the middle. While many of them are muslim, the vast majority of them are running from the same terror that we want to protect ourselves against. The problem occurs when we polarize this to the point that we can no longer have a legitimate conversation. Not everyone who feels compassion for these refugees is saying we need to open our borders and let them come in without any sort of background check. On the other hand, just because some want a reliable vetting process does not make them heartless legalists. Which means we must…
2. Learn to Listen
Or in the case of social media, read. I posted a status saying that “IF” refugees did come to America, the Church should lead the way in compassion and hospitality. This resulted in a trampoline of a comment thread as one conclusion was jumped to after another. Nowhere in my status or comments did I say I was against a vetting process, but that’s what more than one person thought. Nowhere did I say the Church’s responsibility to love the unloved should override the Government’s responsibility to protect her citizens. But that’s how some took it. When we live in the extremes, we fail to listen to understand. Instead we listen to respond, and what happens is argument trumps communication.
3. Let Us Not Use Security to Hide Our Apathy
Yep, I went there. Many of my Christian friends who have expressed a concern for safety do not fall in this category. I know their hearts are with the hurting. But, there are more than a handful that are treating refugees as a problem that they would rather not deal with at this moment.
Close the borders.
Have someone else take care of them.
Make someone else pay for it.
Now, I want you to be honest, can you imagine Jesus saying any of those things to a person in need? But I have seen several of His followers saying these things, or worse, and they smack of apathy and calloused hearts. If you see a problem instead of a person, you need to check your motives. Even if you do care, be careful how you express concern for security matters, because…
4. The World Is Watching Us
I have several friends, in real life and on social media, that are not Christ-followers. Some are family, others are acquaintances, others have been my friends since childhood. The vast majority of them are in favor of letting the refugees in the country. Is it because they are a bunch of soft-hearted liberals? No, some are quite conservative politically. It’s because they can’t get the image of a three-year-old boy washed up on the shores of Greece out of their heads. It’s because they see pictures of children too afraid to sleep on a pillow because they think their pillows make the bombs come. It’s because they see the images of families who are dispossessed, hopeless, and weary, and they want to help their fellow man. And for the life of them, they can’t figure out why the Christians (as they see it), of all people, are the ones leading the charge to close the borders.
If you want our government to be cautious, that’s fine and understandable. But make sure you communicate the compassion of Jesus too. If our Government closes the borders, then find a way to help the refugee, whether it be via an organization like World Vision, or some other means, but whatever you do, don’t forget. The world is watching us, and if we fail to be Jesus in this, a global crisis, we waste an opportunity to lift Him up for all to see.