by Alex Hentschel
I am going to be up front with you: this column is not funny, because its contents are deeply, heartbreakingly serious. This column has an agenda. I have an agenda.
(Hey, at least I wasn’t deceptive about it, right?)
That agenda is to convince you that the cultural tone is wrong on one major point: the treatment of refugees and immigrants. Some well-meaning Christians have been led astray by the politics of fear. In fact, the rise of anti-immigrant and anti-refugee policy is damaging to our Christian witness and our ability to serve and reach the nations.
Okay. I’ve said a lot of things that might have made you inhale sharply and raise your eyebrows. Before we begin, I’d encourage you to wipe any and all political and cultural biases from your mind. Become a tabula rasa. Let your opinion on this subject be informed on one thing: the word of God. Sola Scriptura. We’re going to search its pages and see what it tells us about the treatment of your neighbor and the sojourner in your land.
The Great Commission tells us to reach the nations, but God is also at work bringing the nations to us (Acts 17:24-17). Since we are called to make disciples of all nations (Matthew 28:19), it follows that we should reach out to those around us, in gospel love.
We are to honor and protect the defenseless as Proverbs 31:8-9 says: “Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute. Speak up and judge fairly; defend the rights of the poor and needy.” See also Isaiah 1:17: “Learn to do right; seek justice. Defend the oppressed. Take up the cause of the fatherless; plead the case of the widow.”
We are called to love to sojourner: “Love the sojourner, therefore, for you were sojourners in the land of Egypt” (Deut. 10:19; Exodus 23:9; Lev. 19:33-34).
We are called to love our neighbors: “For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” (Galatians 5:14), and “Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ” (Galatians 6:2).
We are called to hospitality: “Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it.” (Hebrews 13:2.) In Romans 12:13, right after we are commanded to live as living sacrifices, Paul instructs us to “Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality.”
The Word of God seems very clear on the way we are supposed to treat foreigners, sojourners, and those unlike us. However, the church frequently fails to reach out to those in its own community who need it so desperately, preferring instead our comfort, our own needs, and what is familiar to us. Some of us support policies which keep people in need from reaching refuge or a safe harbor. Others prioritize our own nation — or kingdom — over our true kingdom, which has no border. Shouldn’t our heavenly citizenship matter far more than our allegiance to any earthly kingdom?
Our reasoning for the policies that people make and support against the immigrant and the sojourner can be summed up in one word: Fear. In an age of terrorism, some support reactionary bans out of fear of that which is different from us.
However, Jesus does not call us to safe Christianity. We cannot judge an entire people group based on the actions of one, and we cannot reject people in need because we are afraid. In fact, no person accepted to the United States as a refugee has been implicated in a fatal terrorist attack since the Refugee Act of 1980. If a terrorist were to enter the United States, it is unlikely they would choose the refugee path — as you will see later in this issue, the process is highly vetted, with multiple levels of clearance, and painstakingly long.
Even if there was a real threat to refugee resettlement, Jesus calls us to love our enemies — to love those who hate us in Matthew 5:43-48: “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. […] And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that?”
Jesus tells us that fear has no place for the Christian in 1 John 4:18: “There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love. We love because He first loved us.”
Our heart for this Cedars issue is that you get a better understanding of the refugee crisis. I have a personal heart for this — I was blessed to go to Clarkston, Georgia, to serve and learn about refugees over spring break, which you’ll learn about later in this issue. I hope your heart is broken over the stories you read here. I hope that you feel a call to serve those around you — as nearby as Dayton.
The refugee crisis is one of the worst humanitarian disasters that the current world is facing. Who is going to resolve it, if not the church — if not God’s people, a people of no earthly nation (Galatians 3:28, Philippians 3:20), a people called to imitate the reckless, self-sacrificial love of our Savior (John 13:34)?
Alexandria Hentschel is a sophomore International Studies and Spanish double major and the Off-Campus news editor for Cedars. She enjoys old books, strong coffee, and honest debate.