If only Tom Petty could fix all our international problems with his music, but it is actually going to take a lot more work. I know this is sliding into the political arena a bit, but here is why I say anything. Many people are attempting to use Christian reasoning for their arguments, demanding a one size fits all solution, over the refugee problem. Not going to happen, but we can certainly find wisdom to help, so let’s do that.
Christian reasoning is good. I think we universally agree that showing compassion and helping those in need is a virtue. But how is that universally understood? I think for us with a Christian foundation, we recognize that America tends to identify global suffering, pain, evil, and try to help when it can. This is a good thing to do, and I would argue it is because of our Christian background, that we usually are in the forefront of this. But I think the how to do it, is also a good question to ask.
With the tragedy of Paris now becoming a lesson learned with Belgium, these are questions to at least wrestle with? That seems prudent.
So what happens when people want to come to the land of opportunity in mass during a troubled times? What happens when the enemy seems to be taking advantage of this, and infiltrating? It is easy to say love your neighbor, but what about if we suspect they are enemies? Well love your enemies, pray for those who spitefully use and abuse you. Easy, right?
What does that look like? When someone wants do something, the loving thing to do is let them do it, right? I know our society seems to believes that, but is that wise? Jesus let his enemies put him to death right? So the loving thing is to let our enemies do the same? Right? Actually Jesus didn’t let them many times, that is, until it was his time ordained from God. It took hearing from God. If you read the book of Acts, many times the apostles enemies wanted to do things to the disciples, but they would try to escape. Turning the other cheek was not always explicit, and thus as simple as what the loving thing was.
Another apt picture is how did this play out for Israel? I am reminded of the story of Joshua. God is having the Israelites go to war with the people of Canaan. They are subduing peoples and cities. They were commanded to do so as judgment on the land. But there was one people who sought refuge. The Gibeonites. They came to the Israelites, and pretended to be travelers from a far off country. They deceived the Israelties into making a truce with them by pretending to be innocent and peaceful. They pretended to be someone they were not, in order to join and gain access to Israel. The story makes a point of saying of Israel and Joshua “They did not inquire of the Lord”. (Joshua 9)
I think the comparison is a little obvious at this point. Wolves in sheep’s clothing are a problem that we have to deal with, and we are already seeing the after effects of it in Paris and now Belgium.
The point here is in wartime we should inquire of the Lord when there is so much potential for subterfuge, especially in the face of enemies. Let’s not help is never the answer for a Christian, but how do to that? That just may be.
Another issue in this story is that the Israelites were commanded not to make covenants with the people of the land.(Ex 23:32,33) The main reason is not because God doesn’t like foreigners, but because they bring with them other customs, and gods that may perhaps lead and snare the hearts of the people away from the true God. God understands the differences of sojourners and settlers, and how it affects the people. This point is very telling; different people have their gods, their values. This warning is repeated again in Exodus 34, God is well aware of the temptations to capitulate under the influence of other people dwelling in the land.
Churches should be on the forefront of providing aid to refugees, but we should also be in the forefront of wisdom. If a man holding a knife behind his back was asking for a safe place to sleep for the night, I would assume even the most die-hard Christian would still want to count the cost of that particular scenario, especially for his families sake. We should not be hard on people who are calling for prudence when dealing with this situation. It is not simply that these are all innocent people who mean us no harm as the evidence of 9/11, Iraq, Afghanistan, France, and Belgium have shown. The Joshua story even says otherwise as well. Why not inquire of the Lord? We should inquire of the Lord with a position toward wanting to help. Why does helping have to look a certain way when it can be: Lord how can we help?
But the how needs to be addressed? Should we allow people into the boarders with less scrutiny than that of a regular American taking a vacation flight to another state? I don’t think that kind of precaution is even an issue that should cross over into what a Christian should or shouldn’t do, it is just good common sense. When our government won’t make these basic checks, it should at least cause the rest of us to think about how to use wisdom when it does reach our very communities. The Bible never discourages wisdom while it encourages charity, so why not try to find a way that considers both?
Some might say the loving thing for the French to do was not search Mosques, but had they done the “loving thing” they wouldn’t have found the cache of weapons. See in wartime it is hard to identify the innocents, and believe the words of enemies. It is also hard to press certain verses into one fit molds, which is why we are also taught to use wisdom and bind her around our necks.
It is easy to proof text and say love your enemies, but loving your enemies does not mean granting free access to our throats. We are called, as much as we are able, to live peacefully with our neighbors. Some might say that this is too safe, and playing it safe is putting love in the back seat. Well to answer that I would argue that when the disciples were urged to not play it safe, it was on account of inquiring of the Lord. I want to help, but why does help have to look a certain way specifically?
The Bible absolutely does teach us to not mistreat the foreigners who are among us. How else would we do our more important job or reaching them for God? But not mistreating foreigners, did not mean granting them access to the tabernacle, or even the same freedoms of the home people. They still had to recognize they were gentiles, and had to follow the rules of the home people. Assimilation is what demarcates neighbors and foreingers.
One of the results of Joshua allowing the Gibeonites to stay in the land is that horrific story at the end of the book of Judges. The people of the territory of Gibeah enact a similar perverse scenario, that resulted in Sodom’s judgment. Go and read the account where the Levite divides his concubine into twelve pieces in order to rally the rest of Israel to judge their wickedness. This leads to the unfortunate event of most of the tribe of Benjamin being wiped out. I don’t think it is a coincidence that this happens in the territory of those who were not of Israel, rubbing off on the people.(Judges 19-20)
God wanted a distinct people for a reason. God wanted his people protected from foreign pagan influences. Walls may sometimes be necessary. I know that we are not Israel exclusively under one God, but surely there are lessons to be gained when it comes to loving not only foreigners, but our neighbors who are trying to dwell among us safely. While it is true that Christians seek to build bridges and not walls, even the Vatican has security needs that require large stone walls. I have stood outside them, and have had to walk the long trek around them just to enter. The idea of bridges over walls is Christian for sure, but this is to speak in metaphors not reality. In reality God prompted Nehemiah to actually go and re-build the walls of Jerusalem for the very purpose of keeping the enemies out, so the city could prosper. The new Jerusalem in Revelation mentions having massive walls to keep everything unclean outside of them forever. In other words love does not always look like one thing over another. This takes wisdom, this takes inquiry of the Lord.
God always instructed the Israelites out of his concern for their well-being and what brought him glory. Adopting foreign pagans with their gods into his people was never something that he took lightly. While we are not a true theocracy, we should still consider what the values of the people coming into our country promote, and do they help or hinder our own established way of life? Do they build up or tear down?
Refugees are not the problem, it is those who take advantage for sure, so what do we do? This is a government issue whose primary concern should be the peace and protection of its people. We should always be ready to help and lend aid, America does do this a lot, but it shouldn’t mean that we ignore precaution. Precaution protects everyone. Precaution allows the cities to prosper.
I want to help as much as the next person. I want to offer a cold cup of water to even my enemies. I don’t entirely know what the answer is, but I know that God desires all people to come to him, and that is why we help. I think we have enough lessons to at least inquire of the Lord for help.