The United States, like the rest of the world, has been gripped over the last several days by the deplorable acts of ISIS in Paris. We are again beside ourselves not only that such evil exists in the world, but that acts as depraved as these are being successfully carried out on innocent civilians who dare to enjoy a nice Friday evening out in a beautiful city.
Even as our hearts ache over these tragic events, we are compelled to turn our attention to another devastation happening in our day: Syria and her people, the most expansive flight from a country we’ve seen in our lifetime.
As you have no doubt seen on national television, over half of U.S. governors choose not to follow President Obama’s lead to allow these Syrian refugees to enter their states. Lack of proper vetting and the fear of unintentionally welcoming radical Islamic terrorists are their concerns.
And they are valid concerns. As governors, protecting the safety of their states-people is massively important and no doubt part of their responsibility.
I also, have been hesitant and fearful to let in the refugees. At first glance, I was relieved to see the governors’ stances. I want my children safe. I want to be safe. I want my husband to be safe, especially as he works in a Christian church that could possibly be a target for these people. And absolutely by no means do I want to willingly open the door to extremists. In some ways, it seems like a no-brainer.
But my heart would not remain quiet.
Have you seen the pictures of these people? First, I want to route you to these images of where children refugees sleep. Take a look. Jude and I prayed for these children last night as I tucked him in because I was so haunted by their situation. And so thankful I had a nice, cozy bed for my boy.
But even if you do simple google image search of Syrian refugees, it’s impossible not to see the devastation these men, women and children are in. True peril. They have fled their country to save their very lives. I can’t bear the thought of our nation that has SO MUCH not offering to help these people who have SO LITTLE.
Surely you remember the picture of Aylan, the 3 year old who drowned, along with his 5 year old brother and mother as they attempted to cross into Greece, fleeing the war in Syria? This is real life. Real stories. Real people suffering with very little hope.
Can you imagine your child sleeping on the dirt, in the cold, for an endless number of nights because you don’t have a house for them anymore? Or maybe she can’t sleep at all because of the nightmares of gunfire or bombs.
Can you comprehend the fear of the mother who has no idea how she’s going to feed herself or her children next? How do you calm the fears of your little ones when you yourself are so undone?
Can you imagine your children knowing by experience the reality of war and death? I don’t even want my children seeing these images on TV, much less living in the absolute chaos and fear of it every day.
My heart can not help but be for these people. I think Jesus’ heart is for them, too. He has compassion on those that wander about lost, like sheep without a shepherd. Remember?
I want to share 2 stories with you.
I was recently at a conference where Lisa Harper spoke. She shared about a recent trip she took to Greece, where she had the privilege of being one of the first faces to welcome the refugees as they crossed the border.
Muslim women came dressed in hijab, carrying their babies in their arms with other little ones at their feet, and they were exhausted, Lisa said. Though at home in the U.S. she had some secret lingering resentment toward Muslims since 911, once she saw these women’s faces with their bewildered children, all fear and resentment was gone. She was now the hands and feet of Jesus to these women.
One by one, as the women came, she directed them to food and water and offered to hold their babies while they tended to the older kids. She also asked if she could pray for them in the name of Jesus. The first tired mama answered, Inshallah or If God wills. Lisa counted it a privilege to pray for these families. And would you believe that none of them refused to be prayed for in the name of Jesus? Not one.
Also at the conference were 2 other women, one my age and another my mother’s age, who had intentionally sought to become friends with foreign women right here in The United States.
One was Hindu, the other Muslim. Their ultimate goal was to share Jesus with these women, but their method was very simple: time and love.
What I love about their stories is that it is so simple to do. You and I could do this.
They got to know these women at the park while their children played or at Starbucks over coffee. Eventually, both invited them into their homes for tea or dinner or play dates. And these foreign women felt loved. They felt cared for. For the Muslim lady, she had lived in The United States for 8 years and had never been invited into an American home until her new friend invited her. Now her best friend, closer than even her native friends is this American Christian woman.
Their strategy was simple: love. Why can’t we love the Syrian refugees like this?
Jesus chose to love even when it was risky.
I was talking to a friend today about this, and he reminded me that Jesus could have only chosen 11 disciples.
But he didn’t. He chose 12. Judas Iscariot was number 12.
And even though Jesus knew that Judas would be the very one to turn him over to death, He still chose to love His betrayer. He still chose to serve His betrayer by washing his feet, along with the other faithful 11.
Yes, letting the refugees in is risky. Maybe it is dangerous. But can we Christians rise above our fears and be people of courage and faith?
Maybe God would have these refugees come to our country so they can experience the love of God through us, from our warm smiles, our hands reaching to hold their babies, our feet walking to give them fresh warm blankets and beds and hot tea.
Maybe for such a time as this, He wants to use His church to love like He loves. And maybe He wants you and I to be a part of expanding His love to the nations of the world, right here in our own states?
Jesus loved, even when it put Him danger, even when it led to His death. Last night my pastor said something profound: There is something worse than death, and that is dishonoring God.
Let’s honor God by loving the poor and needy. Let’s honor God choosing love, even if it’s risky. When was it ever safe to be a Christian? He doesn’t promise it, friends. He says if you lay your life down for Him, you will find true life. Let’s honor Him by loving risky, loving til it hurts.
The church’s time is now.
The church is the answer. Now is her time to shine, to glorify Jesus by our love. Maybe Obama and the states will decide to let the refugees in, and if they do, the church must rise up, take her place and love these Syrians like they have never known before.
Just as the church has in recent days focused on loving those in foster care, why can’t being for the refugees become the church’s mission? The only reason is our fear and our apathy. We know comfort and want to keep it for ourselves. We are afraid of terrorists, and are afraid to love. But have you forgotten that the greatest joys come when we give of ourselves and serve others? And even if we die, isn’t dying gain when we are in Christ?
I am certainly not naive enough to think I have it all figured out. And I’m sure smarter people than me can think of solid objections and criticisms to my stance here.
But why not ask God to give you His perspective? Ask Him for faith to love even when it’s scary and to obey, even when it’s hard. Most of all ask Him for His Kingdom to come right now in these days among many Syrian refugees hearing the gospel for the first time in their lives and experiencing His love through our hands and feet.
Photo by: European Commission DG ECHO