In these days there are questions about the response of Christians to the plight of refugees. So much vocal angst and consternation over the change in US immigration policy fills the social spaces on our internet. Each side claiming love and common sense; each side pointing fingers of accusation against the other. There is no doubt that this political divide can and does impact the church of Jesus Christ with disunity and division.
We must approach this dilemma on three levels. Firstly, each of us come as individual followers of Jesus to the refugee. We are certain that God’s heart is for those who are genuinely sojourning to America for a refuge from persecution and hardship. God revealed his desire in the Old Testament as he was speaking to Israel’s theocracy, when he told us to embrace and be kind to the alien and stranger. As individual followers of Christ we must not allow distrust of those different than ourselves to guide our individual relationships. Hatred and prejudice are, of course, out of place in the heart of the believer in Jesus Christ. Each of us should reach out in kindness to those who have made the difficult journey to America. Embracing those of other ethnic and religious backgrounds is the first act of divine love an individual can take. Out of these friendships that develop come learning and appreciation, a good citizenry, and powerfully redemptive relationships.
We also come to this issue as a church gathered. We are embracing every color and background in the fellowship of the Son each week as we gather. Those of us here at CLC need only look around to see the vibrant assortment of people from many backgrounds. What ever the church does, we must remain openly redemptive toward those who are curious about our Savior. Churches can and should sponsor immigrant families into the neighborhood and work to Influence our citizenry with ESL classes and citizenship classes. We are called to reach those around us with the love of Christ. As we feed and cloth the needy and work to heal the hurting in our community we are extending the hand of Christ to all, teaching about our God.
There is a third way that American Christians respond to immigrants. That is through the policy of the government. While the government is tasked with securing and keeping Americans safe, it must balance both the individual moral mandates of the individuals with the obligations of the state. What I see argued so often on social media is a challenge to the governmental institutions. America is not a theocracy, nor do we ever want it to be such. Individual moral perspectives and mandates can influence but not drive the policy of governments because we live in a pluralistic society. Government is privy to information that we do not have, works under a mandate that neither individual Christians nor the Church have, and must balance immigration policy with border security. As such we must challenge the status quo of the government with the proclamation of God’s heart for the alien and stranger but to do so with an understanding of the complexity of the mandate.
Oversimplifications, and often unbiblical statements, representing Christ by both extremes works violence against the Church of Jesus. Last year (2015) the Assemblies of God invested $211.1 million overseas. Each preaching point that is developed preaches the acceptance of a loving God and works to strengthen and reinforce local churches, families, and individuals. A person comes to the Lord Jesus in an Assemblies of God church every 20 seconds. A good deal of that investment in overseas mission work is with the poorest of the poor, in countries that are facing governmental destabilization. Some are in countries affected by the latest travel restrictions. Please saints, let us pray for the resolution of the problems of the poor, the refugee, and the immigrant. And may we also work for unity in the church and in America as well.