When I first read about the Syrian refugee crisis on Ann Voskamp's blog back in early September, I prayed, "Oh, God. Send them here. Let us take care of them."
Now He has. Praise the Lord!
But His timing tests us.
His timing tests us because the refugees chase the heels of state elections and a terrorist attack. We are reminded--it can happen to us. We are vulnerable.
And now our officials use the tragedy to promote or to attack the 2nd Amendment. In Louisiana, it divides voters and may change the outcome of the runoffs.
I want to live in a world in which a tragedy can be tragedy and not a platform for political agendas. In which the media takes a quiet breath to mourn bloodshed before they try to fix things only God can fix.
We can't heal horror with legislation. Nor can we prevent it.
But we can feed the hungry.
We can clothe the naked.
We can take in the stranger on our doorsteps.
But we don't want to. Because we're afraid.
Sisters and brothers, may I humbly suggest that if we're too afraid to love, then Satan has rendered the American church useless? Faith without works is dead, Beloved.
This morning I read the words of Jesus in Luke 12:4--"My friends, do not be afraid of those who kill the body, and after that have no more that they can do."
The Holy Spirit takes me to Matthew 25:34-40--"Come, you blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave Me food; I was thirsty and you gave Me drink; I was a sojourner and you took me in; I was naked and you clothed Me; I was sick and you visited Me; I was in prison and you came to Me.
"Then the righteous will answer Him, saying, 'Lord, when did we see You hungry and feed You, or thirsty and give You drink? When did we see You a stranger and take You in, or naked and clothe You? Or when did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You? And the King will answer and say to them, 'Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me.'"
And Deuteronomy 10:18-19--"For the Lord your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great God, mighty and awesome, who shows no partiality...He executes justice for the fatherless and the widow, and loves the stranger, giving him food and clothing. Therefore love the stranger, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt."
Yes, it is true that ISIS sleepers may be among the refugees.
What of it?
At the heart of the gospel is the willingness to get hurt for humankind. Jesus was willing to get hurt for you, Beloved. He told us long ago we would be hurt for him.
"Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, and pray for those who persecute you." (Luke 6:27-28)
"But God demonstrates His own love toward us in that while were still [enemies], Christ died for us." (Romans 5:8)
"A disciple is not above his teacher, nor a servant above his master. It is enough for a disciple that he be like his teacher, and a servant like his master." (Matthew 10:24-25)
"For to [suffering] you were called, because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that you should follow His steps..." (1 Peter 2:21)
This is a fearful thing, yes. But it isn't new. And being American doesn't exempt us. Furthermore, we pledge allegiance to God and the gospel before the flag or our personal comfort.
"Beloved, do not think it strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened to you; but rejoice to the extent that you partake of Christ's sufferings, that when His glory is revealed, you may also be glad with exceeding joy." (1 Peter 4:13)
Suffering for the sake of Christ is also the utmost honor.
"Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake. Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven..." (Matthew 5:11-12)
"Do not fear any of those things which you are about to suffer. Indeed, the devil is about to throw some of you into prison, that you may be tested, and you will have tribulation ten days. Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life." (Revelation 2:10)
Remember, it is to death we are called.
"Whoever desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake and the gospel's will save it." (Mark 8:34-35)
Welcoming refugees is risky. And the government has a responsibility to protect its people. I neither possess the wisdom nor the desire to make the decisions they must make. So I pray for them that they will listen to the voice of God and obey.
BUT we are not to trust in the government for protection. Nor our flag, nor our guns, nor our economy.
"No king is saved by the multitude of an army;
a mighty man is not delivered by great strength.
A horse is a vain hope for safety;
neither shall it deliver any by its great strength."
"Some trust in chariots, and some in horses; but we will remember the name of the Lord our God" (Psalm 20:7). Who numbers the very hairs on our heads "and not one of them falls to the ground apart from [His] will" (Matthew 10:29-30).
I urge you, Beloved--don't give in to blind fear...
See the opportunity.
Many believers lament they cannot GO to the mission field. Rejoice, Christian! The mission field has come to us!
Let us not assume these people are our enemies. The Muslims I met in 2000 grieved with me in September 2001. Most of them are peaceful people who, just like us, are trying to save themselves and just...can't.
Let us look into their eyes and see ourselves.
Let us arise and be the Church!
Loose the bonds of wickedness.
Undo the heavy burdens.
Let the oppressed go free.
Break every yoke.
Share your bread with the hungry.
Bring into your house the poor who are cast out.
Clothe the naked.
Do not hide from your fellow human beings.
your light shall break forth like the morning,
your healing shall spring forth speedily,
and your righteousness shall go before you;
The glory of the Lord shall be your rear guard.
Then you shall call, and the Lord will answer;
You shall cry, and He will say, "Here I AM!"
Brother, if you are afraid, I do not condemn you.
Sister, I do not shame you for your fear.
I only implore you to confess it to our great God as sin and to remember He is with you. He loves you. He is faithful and just to forgive and restore you.
"There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit" (Romans 8:1).I encourage you to ask to be baptized with the Holy Spirit, who brings the gift of boldness. And honey, you can BANK on God answering that prayer (Luke 11:13).
For those who welcome the refugees with open arms, you do well. But do not condemn our brothers and sisters who have fallen prey to the devil's schemes. Do not imagine yourself holier than they. Repent of your pride and vitriol of which you so vehemently accuse them.
If you cannot love your brothers and sisters in Christ, what hope have you of loving anyone else?
This is not the time for division.
This is the time for unity.
This is not the day of judgment.
This is the day of salvation!
Do not lose heart.
The Holy Spirit is even now changing minds and convicting hearts of fear and pride and turning them toward our fellow men and women who need God and all He is every bit as much as we do.
The Spirit of the Lord is upon us. He has anointed us to preach good tidings to the poor, to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, to offer sight to the blind, to liberate the oppressed, to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord! (Luke 4:18-19)
Let's get hurt for the gospel, Church.
Let's make peace and arm ourselves with the love of God.
Let's join ranks with those of whom the world was not worthy.
Jesus screams it loud and clear on the cross--
People are worth it.