Why refugee week is important to us
If we don’t welcome refugees, we can’t call ourselves Christian. All churches that want to be respected among the faithful in this country either agree or their voice becomes irrelevant in the eyes of the Christian moral universe.
by Harley Stapleton Brister
I will begin by quoting scripture so obvious that probably a billion believers have done so before me in relation to this issue, but I’ll try and make that the point:
‘Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?’ He said to him, ‘“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.” This is the greatest and first commandment. And a second is like it: “You shall love your neighbour as yourself.” On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.’ (Matthew 22:36-40).
If we don’t welcome refugees, we can’t call ourselves Christian. All churches that want to be respected among the faithful in this country either agree or their voice becomes irrelevant in the eyes of the Christian moral universe. Just like how we must care about the poor, we must welcome refugees. It’s mainstream church. One doesn’t need an extensive understanding of the Bible to see this and thank God that at least this issue is one Christians can agree upon (unless they’re also national conservatives).
But a problem arises in some circles; why does this or that church care? How much do they really care? Is this about people who are fleeing great hardship or is this merely an issue which helps a church find ecumenical closeness to the rest of Christendom? Is it just something to prop up congregations (as refugee communities contain many people of faith) or, perhaps the worst of all, is this part of an assimilationist evangelistic strategy? As all humble believers know, we must protect ourselves against any kind of misuse of doctrine for the gain of ourselves, and even our churches. The greatest benefits to our churches are never financial or defined by attendance records but come from how closely we follow the way of Christ. A Christological benefit to us should come from how much we’re willing to give up (Matthew 23:12).
However, we must also confess that the life of faith is drastically improved in this country when we welcome refugees; they should be seen as a blessing to this country which has all but abandoned belief in God. Some secular liberals, as welcoming as they can be to refugees, fail to understand the life of faith in many refugee communities. I don’t want to assume we Christians are any better, I mentioned the danger of racist assimilationist ideas in Western church circles, but one can also welcome somebody with the hope that they’ll shake off that immeasurable something which can be carried without need of storage, ignoring that this something may’ve helped them to hope for more in the first place.
What refugees with faith can teach us is that faith is something which can be taken with you anywhere. Perhaps it is something which all protagonists of the Bible held, and the stuff which holds together even the entire biblical narrative. Adam and Eve are exiles, as are the Israelites in Egypt, as are they under Rome, as is Christ and all of his disciples who have nowhere to lay their heads (Matthew 8:20).‹ back