One of the convictions that shapes us at Restoration City is the belief that when our city, country or world is talking about something, we should too. If we don’t, it creates the impression that there’s the real world on one hand and the teachings of Scripture on the other. Restoration City doesn’t exist to be an escape from the world but rather a place to be strengthened, inspired and equipped to engage the world. So, I felt it was important to address the current debate about refugees at our gathering this morning. In doing so, my goal was to make three things clear:
- The church has a tremendous opportunity to serve the national conversation simply by showing that it’s possible to disagree and remain civil. Our culture is rapidly loosing that ability. All too often, we vilify people with different views rather than engaging and discussing. We toss incendiary nonsense around social media because we’ve learned that’s what gets attention. We’ve replaced careful though with cheap soundbites. And we’ve divided ourselves into narrowly defined camps that war with other narrowly defined camps. Restoration City, please don’t give into that kind of lazy thinking or that kind of divisive rhetoric. It’s not worthy of the sons and daughters of God. Disagree, debate, engage but do it with respect and gentleness.
- Long before refugees ever became a political issue, they were a gospel issue. The Scripture speaks clearly to our responsibility as Christians to welcome, love and care for refugees. Often the Bible uses the words alien, stranger or sojourner instead of refugee but they all mean the same thing. I say refugees are a gospel issue for three reasons:
- The central figure of all Scripture was Himself a Middle Eastern political refugee. When Mary and Joseph took the Lord Jesus to Egypt to escape persecution under Herod, He became a refugee. There’s simply no other way to describe it.
- The Bible speaks to our treatment of refugees in many places. Consider just a few:
- Exodus 23:9 – You shall not oppress a sojourner. You know the heart of a sojourner, for you were sojourners in the land of Egypt
- Jeremiah 22:3 – Thus says the Lord: Do justice and righteousness, and deliver from the hand of the oppressor him who has been robbed. And do no wrong or violence to the resident alien, the fatherless, and the widow, nor shed innocent blood in this place.
- Matthew 25:42-45 – For I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not clothe me, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.’ Then they also will answer, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to you?’ Then he will answer them, saying, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.’
- Our treatment of refugees demonstrates our understanding that we are aliens and strangers in this world. 1 Peter 2:11, “Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul.” Our true home is in heaven. We are sons and daughters of an eternal Kingdom and this world is not our home. We’re here as aliens and strangers. The more we understand that, the more we will welcome those who come to our country as aliens and strangers. The gospel puts each of us right in the middle of Exodus 23:9 – we also should know the heart of a stranger because we are sojourners in America.
- We should allow the Bible to shape our prayers. We should pray for our leaders and for the flourishing of the church in America (1 Timothy 2:1-2) and we should pray for those fleeing their homelands to escape war, persecution and death.
My role as a pastor is not to make political statements. It’s to teach the whole counsel of God and lead us into conforming our lives to the teachings of Scripture. That was my goal this morning and it’s my goal in this post. I’m praying for each of you as you shine the light of Jesus into our world this week. Be bold. Be brave. Be respectful. Be motivated by the glory of God and the good of humanity.