The refugees are coming! What shall we do?
Various state governors are reacting to the risks of having supposedly hastily-vetted Syrian refugees resettled in their states. After what has happened in Paris, their concerns are understandable. We are not unaware that ruthless terrorists will use this opportunity to bolster their diabolical scheme to destroy. But there is another dynamic here that should be recognized by Christians. While we pray for government officials who try to distinguish the refugee from the terrorist, we must see that the mission field is coming to us. We have been trying to reach out to Syrian people with the message of hope found in the gospel of Jesus Christ. Our missionaries have been persecuted and martyred trying to reach them in their own land. Now, they are coming to us. Could it be that these refugees being dispersed to countries where they can hear the gospel and find real hope for life now and forever are honoring the blood of those martyrs?
The question this raises is about preparation—ours—not theirs. Are we ready to give an answer for the hope that lies within us? “…but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you…” (1 Peter 3:15). Unprepared and unarmed with confidence in our hope, we will join the multitudes who fear the invasion of people whose hope lies outside our traditions.
We will be required to give an answer for why we believe the Bible is authoritative. I wonder if the thousands of Sunday church-goers in America have a sound answer. What makes this book so important? It will not be enough to say, “It makes me feel better when I read it.”
The refugees will want to know what is so special about Jesus that he claims to be the only way to the Father. Sadly, many contemporary Christians retreat into speculation hereby making excuses for such seeming exclusivity even though Jesus is the only sinless man to ever live; the only one qualified to offer an acceptable sacrifice for mankind’s sin; and the only one who was raised from the dead. He alone lives to be a mediator between God and man. But, if Jesus is not the only way of redemption, why are we dying to promote him?
The refugees will be curious about why Christians will work diligently—and even sacrificially—to help victims of injustice, feed the hungry, and heal the sick if their works do not earn them a place in heaven or give them privileges others don’t have. I wonder if American Christians are clear on how to answer that.
Ethnicity is important to these people. They are being exiled because of their bloodline. They will want to know if ethnicity plays a role in getting God’s favor. I suspect that many of us will be challenged to answer that. We seem to trust our national and natural heritage more than our spiritual identity.
Of course this is just a sampling of the questions that deserve a real answer. The point here is that we have been negligent in our own preparation and are now vulnerable to fear. It is not too late. Every church leader has the responsibility to equip members to give a right answer. It is too late to play the church games of counting attendees and boasting of our budgets. We can rejoice in the number of missionaries that we are sending out, but it is a hollow sound if we aren’t ready to give an answer in the marketplace, the school, the halls of government, as well as the church.
They are coming. We can run from them or toward them.