Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Perfect Love Drives Out Fear

I'm already sure that I'm going to regret this post.

One of the things I wanted for 2017 was to get back to blogging.  I enjoy writing and it is, for me, very therapeutic.   I compose blog posts in my head about things that I am experiencing...funeral work, family milestones, circumstances that God has placed me in, my thoughts about things happening in our nation and world...and they stay in my head.  Partly because I have very little time to write, but mostly because I overthink each idea.  Would I violate someone else's privacy by writing about our funeral home life?  Would people think I'm prideful if I write about my daughters and what it's like to be a mom to missionaries?  Does anyone really care what I think about anything?

But here I am, getting ready to engage the world wide web on a topic that I am not entirely qualified to discuss.  It's huge, and I'm just a lawyer-turned-homeschool mom from a rural midwest town, up to my eyeballs in laundry and dishes and life.   And yet even from this vantage point, these issues are impossible to ignore.  It is no secret that Facebook (and probably other social media sites, but Facebook is where I am) has been U-G-L-Y of late.  The angry posts, angry responses, nasty memes, and unfriending have left me disheartened, to say the least.  I have refrained almost entirely from responding to anything political on Facebook, whether I agreed or disagreed, because I believe it is a terrible forum for friends to discuss such personal and tender issues. There is so much lost in tone and expression.   I have friends from a variety of backgrounds and beliefs, and I would never want to wound anyone who read my words but misunderstood my heart. 

This morning changed my mind.  Someone I love shared this article.  Someone who I know loves me, and more importantly loves Jesus.  And I cried.  I cried big, sad tears right in front of my kids before I'd even had my first cup of tea.  So this is my response to that post, and to many, many of the other things I've seen shared on Facebook about the refugee issue.

Before I try to explain what I found so upsetting about this article, let me first say two things.  First, I am NOT addressing immigration/refugee policy, except to say that of course I do not support unrestricted entry en mass of refugees from Syria or any other nation.  The idea is foolishness, and I have not actually heard anyone, even the most liberal of my friends, suggest that we should.  My words are not to express an opinion about what the process of allowing refugees should be, but rather what our hearts towards refugees should be, which leads me to my next caveat...

My words are to Christians, to the Church, to those who identify as disciples of Jesus.  If you stumble across this post and are not a believer, you are welcome to read on but I do not expect that you will agree with or even understand where I am coming from.  Jesus is my North Star, the only card in my deck.  I can only consider the issue of refugees, and all other issues through that lens.  My faith will always inform my politics, never the other way around.  

So the article that was the tipping point for so much of the grief that I've been experiencing the last several days... Here is the author's opening answer to his title's question, "What Does the Bible Really Say About Taking in Syrian Refugees?" 

Not what the left, the media and quite a few Christians would have you think.
It's always problematic when you look to the mainstream media and other left-wingers for an understanding of what Scripture says. To listen to them, you'd think Jesus was concerned with little more than sending checks to the poor, installing solar panels on roofs and surrendering to any and all foreign enemies.
That's why it's been easy for those who only crack a Bible when they're looking for something to justify an agenda to claim that "Christian compassion" demands we take in Syrian refugees without regard for the potential threat of ISIS terrorists who slip in among the crowd.

 This paragraph hit me like a punch in the gut.  I do not look to the mainstream media, nor to the left OR the right wing of politics for any understanding of Scripture.  I do not only crack open my Bible to justify any agenda or opinion I hold.  On the contrary, I read and study Scripture often because I want to live and be what it teaches.  And when I encounter something in Scripture that conflicts with what I feel or believe, God's Word wins.  I bend to the truth of Scripture (so imperfectly, but I try), and God forbid that I ever bend his Word to my truth.  The name calling and polarizing on social media is destructive from any source, but it is particularly unbecoming from Christians.  To be sure, believers can and will disagree on a number of things, and disagree vehemently.  We are but fallible and finite mortals trying to comprehend an infallible and infinite God.  We will all swing and miss sometimes, and there is grace for that.  But we should never, ever resort to snarkiness, belittling, or questioning the sincerity or depth of the faith of those we disagree with.  Jesus followers... please stop being rude to one another.  We are family.  The world is watching and we must do better.

The article continues by citing another author's analysis of Romans 13, and drawing parallels to Jesus' parable of the Good Samaritan to support his position that America should not admit Syrian refugees (At least I think that's his position.  It's not totally clear to me).  I understand his points, and while I do not find them persuasive enough to change my mind, I choose to agree to disagree.  Because we can do that and be nice about it.

 This is the part that brought me to tears:

The Syrian refugee situation is a tricky conundrum because there surely are many among the group who have no evil intentions and genuninely[sic] need help. America should want to help. But there are ways to do that without risking our own security. It would make more sense for them to be resettled in majority Muslim countries anyway, and we can do a lot of things to support that process.
But the responsibility of government is to protect its people from harm, and the government is well aware of the fact that previous terrorist attacks have been perpetrated by people who slipped in as refugees or asylum-seekers. Knowing full well that this one of the enemy's tactics, and doing absolutely nothing to prevent them from succeeding at it, is not "Christian compassion." It's a dereliction of duty.
We can help and we should. But not by putting ourselves in jeopardy.

(emphasis mine)

Putting aside the fact that not all of the Syrian refugees are Muslim...if you are a Christian, if you believe that those who are Muslim are lost without Christ and have no hope of eternal life without him, how can you possibly want to send these people back to Muslim nations where they have little to no opportunity to hear the gospel?  The very last command Jesus gave us before he returned to Heaven was to go and make disciples of all nations (Matthew 28:19-20).  How many of us would ever have the opportunity to share our faith in the Muslim world, and yet the refugee crisis has the potential to bring them to us!  Have we even considered the opportunity this would present to be the hands and feet of Christ to desperate, hurting people who not only need shelter, but salvation? To introduce them to true peace, to the Prince of Peace?  People of faith, we should not be fretting about how to keep them out but how fast can we safely and securely get them here!  And do not tell me that we should take care of our own first, because I am firmly persuaded that God does not care about our political borders.  The parable of the Good Samaritan made that clear.  The world is our neighbor.  They are our own. No "us" and "them," just "us."

As to not putting ourselves in jeopardy...most everything that I read in Scripture teaches the opposite. In Matthew 26:24-26  Jesus says, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it. What good will it be for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul?"  Throughout Scripture, we are instructed to deny ourselves and the things of this life and even our life itself, and set our hearts and minds on things care more about advancing the Kingdom of Heaven than advancing the kingdom of self.    Here is one of those times when I have to bend myself to Scripture's truth, because honestly...I love my little kingdom, with my farmhouse, my new car, my garden, my pretty things, my friends and family.  These are all wonderful things, but I cannot love them more than I love Jesus, and I cannot let fear of losing them keep me from obeying his call to love and to serve.  And fear is really at the heart of all of this, isn't it?    
I confess that I, too, struggle with that fear.  I can imagine that even with all the security screenings, wicked people could enter our country and cause harm.  In my most fearful moments, I can imagine foreign enemies streaming across our borders and laying waste to our homes and business and schools and everything we have.  I imagine the terror and desperation I would feel if I was unable to protect my children from injury, abuse, kidnapping, starvation and even death and the very thought of it makes me physically sick.

And then I remember that parents in Syria have lived and continue to live that nightmare.  For real.
And I am undone.

Fear keeps us from serving in all kinds of ways.  Many of the copy & paste status updates and memes circulating this week have called out those who are sympathetic to the plight of refugees for not caring about a host of other populations of hurting and needy people, such as homeless persons, veterans, homeless veterans, foster children, orphans, trafficking victim, addicts, etc. This is a logical fallacy.  People can care about and advocate for more than one cause.  And as Christians, we must care about all of them, because God does.  But how many of us allow fear to keep us from serving these people?  Fear that bringing foster kids into our homes will negatively affect our own children, or fear that we'll get attached and our hearts will be broken (it happens).  Fear that being friends with a homeless person or addict will make us vulnerable or put us in uncomfortable positions.  Fear that serving will cost us time and money that we would rather spend on ourselves.  Fear is the enemy of obedience and if we let it, it will paralyze us to the point that we are completely ineffective for God.  But we are promised in 1 John 4:8 that "perfect love drives out fear."  Perfect love...not in our own strength, but with the love of God moving through us.  He will equip us with all we need to reach out to the lost and hurting.  His love will drive out our fears.

Friends, I beg you to look at the refugee situation from a different perspective.  Of course we must be wise, but we must not forget that "the wisdom of the world is foolishness in God's sight." (1 Corinthians 3:19)  and that "the foolishness  of God is wiser than man's wisdom and the weakness of God is stronger than man's strength." (1 Corinthians 1:25)  Imagine what could happen if God's people mobilized on behalf of these people who have lost everything.  I've read many challenges that those who want to help the refugees should volunteer to host a Syrian family.  I generally think it's posed as a rhetorical proposition, but if I were given the opportunity to show hospitality, generosity, love and grace to a refugee family?  Sign me up.


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