Refugees

“When a stranger sojourns with you in your land, you shall not do him wrong. You shall treat the stranger who sojourns with you as the native among you, and you shall love him as yourself, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt: I am the LORD your God.” (Leviticus 19:33-34)

IMG_2978People do not want to leave their country and culture of origin. It takes a significant event to make them abandon all that is familiar and step into the unknown. Most of the refugees are leaving because they have no other choice. In Turkey I spoke with a number of people who literally fled ISIS at the point of a gun. These refugees will be seeking asylum in predominantly western countries. But even as they are desperate for safety and security there is growing hostility towards them in the West.

IMG_3011At a recent prayer gathering my church prayed for refugees and for the work of the church in Turkey. It stirred some discontent among our folks regarding the political situation and the impending reception of refugees from these countries.  The point of the prayer was to lift up the Christian leaders in Turkey who are serving the arriving refugees. It wasn’t focused on refugees who may be coming to the US.  But there were people who responded with grave concern.

IMG_3024We will be serving those same refugees as they arrive in our community. The Iraqi refugees are already here. The newer Syrian refugees will begin to arrive in Beaverton in the summer of 2016. Will there be bad people among them who are a threat to Americans? There may very well be. It is why I am prayerful that my country can responsibly screen those who are coming. But concerned people are asking the wrong question. The more important humanitarian question is, “what kind of people would you want to receive your wife or daughter if they fled this country because you had been threatened, imprisoned or killed?”

IMG_2993Our president says that receiving refugees is a demonstration of American leadership. Candidate Ben Carson says we would be wiser to shore up refugee camps in Syria and the Middle East instead. Candidate Donald Trump says we need a moratorium on accepting any Muslim refugees until we have a better idea of how to vet them. The political climate in America is heating up with regard to immigration. There is a lot of debate, disagreement, fear mongering and resistance to the admission of refugees.

Many evangelicals are politically conservative. They take a dim view of receiving immigrants, particularly Muslims.  When they hear refugee they think terrorist. Some concerns are legitimate, so it is not my purpose to try to present a political case for one side or the other. I do not make the decisions that determine our immigration policies or processes. I can vote in ways that I believe are responsible and I can even hope for a particular outcome, but as an evangelical I cannot view the arrival of refugees politically. I have to view it from the perspective of God’s great love.  Jesus challenged the status quo among the religious establishment of his day, appealing on behalf of the love and mercy of God the Father. This is our opportunity to disciple the church, no matter how politically diverse we may be. Unless evangelicals do this, and unless our leaders teach our people about having a heart of love for the strangers who sojourns among us, we will fail to live up to God’s expectations for His church.

“Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’” (Matthew 25:37-40)

About marknicklas

Mark Nicklas is a husband, father, son and follower of Jesus Christ. He is a pastor at Beaverton Foursquare Church and an adjunct professor at Multnomah University, where he earned his doctorate in Cultural Engagement. Like Jacob wrestled with God at Jabbok, this site is a place for talking about the identity of the church with respect to the cultures we live in. You are invited to share the journey.
This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

13 Responses to Refugees

  1. jbormuth says:

    Amen and Amen. I especially appreciated your opening verse. I wrote on this subject myself because I feel like you that we are missing the opportunity God is providing for his kingdom to reach out and love those who are hurting. Not only that, but it gives us the perfect chance to simply “LOVE” on others like Jesus did, with NO expectation in return. I find it dangerous when I listen to some other religious leaders who espouse loving those coming into our country for refuge so that we can use this time to “save” them. This is why I appreciate what you are saying. I find no hint of any “bait and switch” tactics in your post. Thank you for that! I agree that what is most important during this time is to make our Jesus visible and allow him to take over. We do not need to save anyone, he does what he intends, we only need to be willing obedient hands, feet, mouths and able to offer physical refuges whenever possible. Not that Jesus needs to ever be added to, but in your last verse, maybe it is time we added, “…anyone who houses those who are hungry and thirsty, do so to Jesus!”

    • marknicklas says:

      Thanks, Jody. BTW, the evangelical church in Turkey is significantly made up of converts. A number of refugees have responded to the love of Jesus they have been shown by also responding to Jesus. We do want them to know Him… it is our heart from the very start when we give that cup of cold water. As you would agree, when they see the real deal, they see Jesus. He does the work. But we are never quiet about saying who has saved us. “I am not ashamed of the Gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes… For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, ‘The righteous shall live by faith.’” (Romans 1:16-17)

  2. Mark, what do you think of those who would suggest that the United States should focus first on evacuating and helping Christians in the Middle East, as is the focus of Glenn Beck’s Nazarene Fund? Even in the sheep and goats parable, it seems as if Jesus is implying a relationship… “the least of these MY BROTHERS…” as a point of emphasis for such acts of charity. Now, this is not to discount his obvious teaching about loving one’s enemies and praying for those that persecute you, and I would not certainly NOT categorize all Muslims as an enemy to be loves rather than a brother to whom a cup of cold water is due, but folks like Beck and others argue from a position of “practicality.” Here’s an interesting bit from his FAQs on the Nazarene Fund:

    Q: BUT, HOW IS IT FAIR THAT YOU ARE PRIMARILY FOCUSED ON CHRISTIANS?

    A: It’s not a matter of fairness – we wish we could help everyone – but it is a matter of practicality, resources and urgency. The United States is a Christian majority country that can more quickly and more easily rally support for displaced Christians. We also have a grave concern for all of those being effected by ISIS in the region, not excluding the majority Muslim population, which has been the victim of more terrorist related causalities than any other religion or culture. However, the Christian community faces a particular threat of extermination. Lord George Weidenfeld is a British peer who has personally rescued 25 families from ISIS, resettling them in Poland, and he did so because he was himself rescued by Christians in 1938 as a young Jewish boy. Now he says, “he is repaying the favor.” When Weidenfeld was asked by a reporter why he was only helping Christians, he responded, “I cannot save the world, but there is a very specific possibility on the Christian side.”

    Interesting perspective, no? Should we go out of our way to select one group or another to assist? It does seem as though the Christian populations are being specifically targeted by ISIS and therefore extremely vulnerable. I am wondering what my responsibility is to my brother and sister in faith as well as my responsibility to my “neighbor”–the modern day Samaritan.

    Source for the Nazarene Fund quote: http://www.glennbeck.com/2015/09/09/the-nazarene-fund-frequently-asked-questions/

    • marknicklas says:

      This is an interesting question, Chris. I will start with a question…. is the foreigner in the land only about Jewish people? No, it is not. The basis of the command is that they were foreigners in Egypt. Initially Egypt showed them kindness. Then I will ask the question, was Jesus specifically referring to Jews when he said the least of these my brothers? Maybe there needs to be a comma between these and my brothers? Ruth, Rahab, Naaman, and the widow of Zarephath (who gave Elijah a cup of cold water) were all examples of foreign non-believers either giving or receiving. Perhaps Jesus sees “brother” before we do. I know a lot of believers who did not arrive in America as believers. I am all for making efforts to assist our fellow Christians. That is our responsibility as Christians. Whether I can put that on my “majority Christian nation” (I don’t even know what that means. Beck is a Mormon, yes?), I don’t know. There are a lot of presumptions in that statement. I really don’t expect our secular nation to bear witness to Christ. I certainly see no inclination among the leadership to do so. Would it be easier for Christians to acclimate than a Muslim? Maybe. I think it may depend on who meets them when they arrive and whether or not they meet Jesus through His people.

  3. jp says:

    This is a very good work of your church, in praying for the best interests of the incoming needy families. I feel you are on the right track to consider the scripture that asks “When did we see you a stranger and welcome you?” Ironically, perhaps sometimes it feels easier to engage strangers that those in our own city who are different from us.

    When we see strangers as a “cause” or “project” to take on, perhaps we gain satisfaction in feeling like a good benefactor. Sometimes we like the “image” we feel in engaging the issue by talking to the people. The challenge is in learning to listen carefully for the long-term needs of the refugees who enter our doors.

    Is it for their best interests that we act? Only when we care about their best interests, more than our own, will we live out the sacrificial love Jesus showed.

    Jesus risked everything.

    • marknicklas says:

      I couldn’t agree more. Whenever I enter the space of another with the premise of serving, I have to take my shoes off – like Moses at the burning bush, because it is sacred ground. I often think of the words found in Epidemics Book I of the Hippocratic School, ringing in my ears, “do no harm.” The statement, often misrepresented as part of the Hippocratic Oath, specifically says, “practice two things in your dealings with disease: either help or do not harm the patient.” I pray God will always enable me to discern the difference.

  4. wilfredkm325 says:

    Mark, the following paragraph from your blog especially ministered to me. You wrote; “Many evangelicals are politically conservative. They take a dim view of receiving immigrants, particularly Muslims. When they hear refugee they think terrorist. Some concerns are legitimate, so it is not my purpose to try to present a political case for one side or the other. I do not make the decisions that determine our immigration policies or processes. I can vote in ways that I believe are responsible and I can even hope for a particular outcome, but as an evangelical I cannot view the arrival of refugees politically. I have to view it from the perspective of God’s great love. Jesus challenged the status quo among the religious establishment of his day, appealing on behalf of the love and mercy of God the Father. This is our opportunity to disciple the church, no matter how politically diverse we may be. Unless evangelicals do this, and unless our leaders teach our people about having a heart of love for the strangers who sojourns among us, we will fail to live up to God’s expectations for His church.”
    I think this whole issue regarding refugees, might actually be a test to the evangelicals.
    One fact about our God is the He tests His people. Whenever He does so, the intent is that the people being tested may discover what was actually in their own heart. Ex. 15:25; 16:4; 20:20; Ps. 7:9. So, how the evangelicals view refugees or how they want refugees to be treated and the harsh words they have said about them, is an exposure of what is actually in the hearts of many evangelicals – It is evident that the lack of a heart of love for strangers is being exposed. God help us. Praying for them is the least and the most powerful thing evangelicals can do for the displaced. I hope as evangelicals we love the refugees enough to pray for them at least.

  5. dakotabound says:

    Great blog on this important and immanent topic Mark! I know your personal involvement with people in other countries gives you a powerful perspective on these kinds of issues. Even more importantly your relationship with God and His Word gives you a godly perspective as well. I value your thoughts on this matter and the challenge you give to us as Christians. I agree we must separate the political and practical from our callings disciples of Christ, and when the two conflict, we need to go with the latter. I trust the Church will rise to the occasion and be willing to serve those in so much need!

  6. gdueker says:

    Mark,
    Thanks for this article and the discussion it provokes. My response, initially prompted by something Jody wrote and then in response to some of the thoughts you sent me became an entire blog post of my own, Refugees and the Pesky Law of Hospitality. The unaddressed issue I raise is the need to be up front about the cultural dissonance that exists, changes they will need to make to avoided marginalization, and to allow refugees some say in where they end up. But the most important issue is whether we will be willing to be personally involved once they get here. This discussion has prompted one retired truck driver in my church to ask what Syrian dialect he should learn to best help those who will come. I stand amazed!

    • marknicklas says:

      I love the heart of the retired truck driver. Now if we could all begin to think this way…
      On another note… are you sure about the word sojourner (check out the Hebrew root)?

  7. jpolensky says:

    Thank you Mark. Just as we are to advocate for the orphan and widow, the alien or in our terms alien needs to be taken care of. Matthew 25 does say it best in that we should put aside our earthly, temporal political beliefs and embrace God’s kingdom and eternal ways. Blessings.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s