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THE REFUGEE CRISIS: TIME FOR REFLECTION BEFORE REACTION

In keeping with James 1:19, I have been reluctant to enter the fray of voices and opinions regarding America’s recent actions in response to the global refugee crisis. I do so now, only because our entire country is polarized and fixated on the topic and I know many of you wonder how our faith should inform and influence our thinking on the matter. I hope you find the following thoughts and resources helpful.

At the end of his first week in office, President Trump signed an Executive Order intended to protect the nation from foreign terrorist entry into the United States. The order was met with a swift and very strong negative reaction by much of the media and by people of both political parties. This reaction seems to result from one or more of three reasons:

1. The roll out of the order seemed to lack advanced communication and consensus from relevant agencies and created confusion among those in customs and borders regarding immediate implementation.

2. Significant voices in media and a broad range of voices in social media have misrepresented the intent of the order and have stirred up reaction by focusing on a flawed initiation of the order instead of the merits of the eventual implementation of the order.

Read the order: https://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2017/01/27/executive-order-protecting-nation-foreign-terrorist-entry-united-states

Recommended analysis of the order: https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/article/the-faqs-president-trumps-executive-order-on-immigrants-and-refugees

3. Among those who have an accurate understanding of the intent and implementation of the order, a very large number nevertheless believe the policy fails to reflect the values and compassion of the America they love—and/or the God they love—and thus passionately object.

As believers, what biblical insight should we draw upon in forming our reaction to the plight of refugees? In addition, what practical issues must we be aware of as we form personal positions on these matters?

Biblical Insight. As believers there are two biblical truths that we must distinguish and hold in tension as we navigate the debate. These regard the purpose of the government and the purpose of the church. One of the major purposes of government is to protect her people. Romans 13:1-7 explains that government is ordained by God as His servant to protect the good from the bad. In these days of global terrorism, we should be sensitive to the difficult job of government to provide safety for its citizens. As believers, we should be grateful for the men and women who serve in our military and intelligence who risk their lives to keep us safe.

The purpose of the church though is different. The purpose of the church is to reproduce fully devoted followers of Christ who are willing to sacrifice their lives to get the gospel to people of all nations. Regarding refugees—those from the nations who have fled here—the church should seek to share the gospel with every refugee as they care for their material, emotional and spiritual needs. The government’s posture is safety; the church’s posture is service.

Though I do not claim to know how to perfectly resolve the complicated issues related to refugees, I do encourage you to assimilate the following into your position and interaction:

1. Make sure your view and interaction respects the two distinct purposes of the government and the church. God established both institutions with different roles.

2. As believers, seek to move interaction to the core problem of brokenness in the world. It is because of the brokenness of sin that people war against each other, discriminate against each other, hate one another, fear one another, etc. The only solution to brokenness is God’s rescue plan of sending His Son Jesus to pay the penalty for our sin and rebellion. Faith in Jesus results in forgiveness of sin and freedom to relate to a broken world with the love of Christ.

For similar thoughts, see http://1peter.austinstone.org/articles/thinking-biblically-about-refugee-policy/

Practical Issues. In addition to biblical insight, there are practical issues to consider about how many refugees there are in the world and how many we can really afford to bring to the United States. The cost prohibits our ability to help the majority of refugees. Here’s the research from the Center for Immigration Studies:

http://cis.org/High-Cost-of-Resettling-Middle-Eastern-Refugees

You may also find this brief video helpful which tries to put the global poverty issue and immigration into perspective:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=30&v=LPjzfGChGlE

Finally, what can be done now? Locally, some of you may want to get involved in caring for refugees here in Austin. Consider “Refugee Services of Texas” (http://www.rstx.org/austin.html). Also, as we assess our Global Outreach strategy and budget each year, we have the opportunity to evaluate what investments God would have us make—or trips to take—in reaching out to the millions of refugees in the world. You may want to pray accordingly.

For additional reading, see Wayne Grudem’s, Politics According to the Bible, pages 470-483.