In recent weeks, I’ve spoken, written and posted a good deal about refugees. Although this is not a new topic for me or Restoration City (we had a senior leader from World Relief speak on a Sunday morning at our church last May), I’ve given it more emphasis in the last two weeks in light of President Trump’s now famous Executive Order. I know my comments have alternately surprised, angered and thrilled various members of our congregation. In light of that, I thought it would be helpful for me to share my three goals in raising this issue:
Goal #1: Clarify The Teaching Of Scripture
The primary way I serve our church is by teaching God’s Word. In my experience, many Christians are not familiar with passages like Matthew 25, Exodus 22 or many others that make it clear that we as the church have an obligation to care for the refugees in our city. No, those passages say nothing about the government’s role in establishing laws that keep us safe as a country and how we balance compassion with security. But they make it explicit that when refugees are admitted to our country, we have an obligation to care for them. Turning our backs on refugees already in our country is quite literally turning our backs on Jesus. I feel obligated to make this point as clearly as possible.
Goal #2: Challenge Our Thinking
The real conversation over the last two weeks hasn’t been about us caring for refugees when they’re here. It’s been about whether or not we should suspend (for 120 days or indefinitely) portions of our national refugee resettlement efforts. I understand that’s a different question than how the church cares for refugees once they’re in our country. That’s why my goal has been to challenge our thinking, not tell us how to think.
As thoughtful followers of Jesus, we all wrestle with how our biblical and moral convictions shape our approach to public policy and to politics. That’s the way it should be! We need to think through how the clear teachings of the Bible influence our participation in the public square on places wherever the Bible is clear – life beginning at conception, marriage being a lifelong covenant between one man and one woman, the moral evil of human trafficking, the need for racial reconciliation and a command to care for the least of these (the poor, the oppressed and the refugee). To be clear, I don’t think it’s my job as a pastor to connect those dots for you. But it is my job to raise the question, to suggest that societies flourish most when aligned with God’s design and to argue for a consistent framework as we all wrestle through those questions. In other words, the way you think about abortion and refugees should both be influenced by the Scriptures and should be influenced consistently.
Goal #3: Build Bridges
I do believe the national conversation about refugees gives us an opportunity to reach out productively to many who are not followers of Jesus. Two weeks ago, I had a conversation with a member of our church who recounted a conversation she had with a friend earlier in the day. They were talking about refugees and the friend, who is not a Christian, asked with a great deal of challenge in her tone, “So, did your church say anything about this today?” She was stunned to hear the answer was yes and it made her slightly more open to Jesus. That’s a win in my book! All too often, people assume the church and the religious, political right are the same thing. Not true. As I’ve said before, if your God fits perfectly into any political party, He’s too small and His name isn’t Jesus. The broader culture in our city knows theologically conservative churches oppose abortion and defend a biblical view of marriage. I want to make sure they’re equally clear that we stand with the poor, the vulnerable and the oppressed, including lawfully admitted refugees.
At the end of the day, we aren’t a political advocacy church. I’m not preaching about the 9th Circuit’s ruling on Sunday. I’m preaching on Acts 3:1-10 and the foundational rhythms of a life on mission. We’re about Jesus, Community and Restoration. But when the culture is talking about something the Bible speaks to, I would rather lean in than pull back.