The Crossing is full of smart people who are passionate about bringing their faith to bear on different issues. Today, I want to introduce you to Megan Owens who has served as a Crossing Kids intern for 3 years and will be graduating in May. Megan has been thinking about how her faith should shape her approach to the international refugee crisis.
Most of us have political opinions, and we view events going on in our world through these perspectives whether they are Republican, Democratic, Conservative, Liberal or something in between. One of the issues that often gets caught between our political views and Christian views is the issue of refugees and immigrants. How do we react when we see the refugee crises happening in various parts of the world? It can be easy to feel for those we see suffering when we see images of overcrowded boats or news stories of separated families or the conditions of refugee camps. But why is it hard for us to go beyond the fleeting moments of sympathy we experience after seeing these news stories or hearing of another world tragedy?
I remember seeing the image of the dead Syrian boy lying on the beach. In the moment, I felt deeply for him and his family, but a few minutes later I was back to thinking about myself and what I had to do that day. In this digital age we have been desensitized to the disturbing images that we are constantly bombarded by. It can be difficult for us to make sense out of them when most of our personal experiences are very different. Maybe we struggle with apathy because we see these issues through a political view instead of from a Christian perspective?
How should Christians think about refugees and immigrants?
Reflect on Scripture
There are many passages in the Scriptures that discuss vulnerable populations. The Bible often specifically calls out the orphan, the widow, the poor and the foreigner. But who are those people in our current time? What does it look like to love them the way Jesus does?
The answers to these questions lie in the Scriptures. We are specifically called to love foreigners, which in our present context includes refugees and immigrants. These refugees and immigrants are struggling to survive in a brand new country after having escaped civil war, genocide, religious persecution, economic crisis and more. In Leviticus, we are told to treat foreigners as if they are from our own land and help provide for their daily needs. The gospel calls us to look at these issues through the lens of a Christ follower rather than our political affiliation.
When a foreigner resides among you in your land, do not mistreat them. The foreigner residing among you must be treated as your native-born. Love them as yourself, for you were foreigners in Egypt. (Leviticus 19:33-34)
He defends the cause of the fatherless and the widow, and loves the foreigner residing among you, giving them food and clothing. And you are to love those who are foreigners, for you yourselves were foreigners in Egypt. (Deuteronomy 10:18-19)
Look to the example set by Jesus’s life
In the parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37) Jesus talks about what it means to be a good neighbor. Both the priest and the Levite made excuses as to why they couldn’t help the injured man while the Samaritan, going against cultural norms of the day, used his own time and resources to help him. Although most of us probably won’t encounter a man that has been beaten up on the side of the road, the lesson we can take from this is that helping someone in need is more important than going along with societal norms or our personal discomfort. Helping our neighbors may mean giving up something on this earth but it draws us nearer to Christ and what he has called all of us to.
Jesus’s ministry on earth was paid special attention to vulnerable populations. He spent his time with those on the outskirts of society, and helping the oppressed and afflicted were important topics in his teaching. If helping the vulnerable was an important part of Jesus’s life and ministry, shouldn’t it be an important part of ours too?
“For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.” 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 25:35-40)
In the past few years there has been a growing refugee crisis and at the same time there has been an increasing fear of those very same refugees. These fears are often exacerbated by sensational headlines, social media posts and articles written without factual founding.
How do we move past our fears? We can dispel our fears by looking to the One who is protecting and guiding us. We can face our fears head on by seeking truth. When we see a newscast, read an article or even hear about an event from a friend, it is important for us to seek the truth. It can be easy to let fear dictate our thoughts on various issues, but reminding ourselves daily of the promises of God can help us combat these fears.
“The Lord is my light and my salvation— whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life— of whom shall I be afraid?” (Psalm 27:1)
“For God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.” (2 Timothy 1:7)
“So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed him, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” (John 8:31-32)
As Christians not only it is important for us to study the Scriptures and pray about these social issues, but it is important that we take action. Below you’ll find resources on how to help refugees in our community and around the world, as well as resources that have helped me learn more about viewing social and political issues through a Christian lens.
Organizations helping refugees:
Specifically in Columbia: