A lot has been written and a lot has been said about the Syrian refugee crisis. As a pastor I usually keep political conversations to a face to face, one on one conversation, but today I will step into a political issue publicly. The reason? Because it is not a political issue, it’s a biblical issue. Because I know what the bible says about this issue. And because as a child I lived this issue out.
In the 80’s, while the cold war was in it’s death spiral, my family did the unthinkable. We sponsored and hosted a Russian refugee family. While the KGB was alive and well, we opened our home to possible spies from the most hated country in the world.
We fed and clothed this family for 6 months. My dad, a middle school US history teacher, helped them towards citizenship. My mom, a nurse, literally and figuratively nursed them to health. I slept on the floor for 6 months and gave my bedroom to Yelena and Tatiana. There was no family vacation that year, Christmas and birthdays were lean and I often was forced to eat boiled Russian cabbage. It’s not tasty. There was a complete loss of privacy and privilege. Our home was not “our” home anymore.
I remember being bitter. I was in 4th grade. I remember being embarrassed when Yelena and Tatiana would get on the bus with me, dressed with their Russian head coverings, Russian long dresses and hand-me-down winter coats. I remember wanting my room back. I remember wanting my house back, my family back. I remember thinking, “Why would my parents subject our family to this?” I’m sure people in our small rural town were wondering, “Why would they subject our community, even our country to this?” But even in my wondering, I knew the answer:
Because they took the words of Jesus Christ seriously!
Everyone, please, go and read the parable of the Good Samaritan. It’s Luke 10:25-37. I’ll wait.
The Good Samaritan puts himself in danger, great danger. Stopping on a dangerous road, maybe walking into a trap as he approaches the injured man. He pays a high price with money and time. He did this all for the foreigner, for the abused, for the “least of these.”
Jesus ends the story by saying, “Go and do the same.”
But what I am hearing from other christians, including ones who attend my church is. “Go and do the opposite.” Don’t care for the foreigner. Don’t stick your neck out for others. Don’t care for the abused. Don’t care for the least of these. And it is breaking my heart.
I understand this Syrian refuge thing has a lot of layers to it. Yes, it is possible that a terrorist may sneak into the country as a refugee. I think that is a remote possibility, made a very remote possibility by our government doing their due diligence during the immigration process. And really, I do understand there is more than a little fear about this; because I have it too. But as a follower of Jesus I don’t make decisions out of fear, I make them out of love. We start and we end with love. We do everything in our power to be the “good neighbor” and that is scary.
Following Jesus is a scary thing. If you are not scared to follow Jesus, you haven’t really unearthed all that following Jesus requires of you.