I wanted to discuss President Donald Trump’s recent executive order regarding refugees as they relate to Islamic terrorists. I don’t have enough hubris to say that this is THE Christian perspective. This is my perspective based on my understanding of scripture and my personal worldview… which I’d like to think is also based on scripture.
I’ve seen responses from my fellow brothers and sisters in Christ that vary from complete agreement to likening his executive order to a ban on Muslims and that Trump dealt a death blow to our tradition of allowing refugees into our country as if Lady Liberty herself was turned on her head.
So how should we respond?
We serve the King of Kings who is the Truth, (John 14:6).
We should tell the truth because God is truth.
Unfortunately there is a lot of bad information out there and I see Christians passing it on. Just a note if your political advocacy consists of just sharing internet memes you’ve probably been guilty of this from time to time.
In order to be truthful we need to be knowledgable. I’m not going to spend time pointing out the facts related to this executive order. I think there are a lot of good responses out there that get to the heart of what is true and what is not.
David French at National Review wrote a good piece separating the facts from hysteria. It should be noted he opposed Donald Trump during the campaign and remains a critic when necessary. Joe Carter at The Gospel Coalition also wrote a good summary of what the executive order actually does. Ben Shapiro, also not a Trump fan, shares eight things we need to know about the executive order. Alastair Roberts had a thoughtful piece as well.
Now knowing the facts you may still disagree with the action, but at least get the facts right. If you are calling it a Muslim ban you are lying. If you act as though refugees have been denied access indefinitely you are misrepresenting what the executive order does.
If you act as though what President Trump has done has never been done in the history of our republic (you would be sorely mistaken – not that precedent makes an action right).
So be truthful whether you agree with his executive order or not.
As Christ followers we should be welcoming toward all whom God brings into our life. We are to love our neighbor as ourself, (Matthew 22:39). We are also make disciples of who we encounter. Specifically, Jesus tells his disciples before ascending to heaven said,” Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,” (Matthew 28:19-20, ESV).
“Of all nations”…. God is giving us a unique opportunity to reach the nations here at home. “Go therefore” literally means “as you are going” make disciples. “As you are going” in your neighborhood, school, work, or to a foreign country “make disciples of all nations.”
Not just those who look, think and act like us.
The opportunity to reach Muslims has never been greater. Many who are coming to our shores have never heard the Gospel of Jesus Christ before. It wasn’t permitted. Also many come from lands that to convert from Islam could even mean death. In the United States they are no longer under that system. This is an amazing opportunity.
Refugees should see the love of Christ in us.
“Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep,” (Romans 12:15, ESV).
We need to recognize that there are families who had hope they were coming to the United States who now realize that will be delayed. There are families who are currently in danger.
We definitely need to pray for those in that position.
There are 12 million who have been displaced in Syria alone. This is a crisis. It is tragic. We need to pray for wisdom on how to handle this.
We also need to pray for our brothers and sisters in Christ who have been under persecution. They need our prayers, our love and our support as well.
Be responsible with scripture.
I see a lot of people quote the Old Testament. For instance…. “You shall not wrong a sojourner (foreigner) or oppress him, for you were sojourners in the land of Egypt,” (Exodus 22:21, ESV).
Some problems here.
For starters is pausing entry “oppressive” and “wrong”? I think that is debatable. Secondly this is a command for Israel, the people of God. Granted yes the principle applies. We wouldn’t want our government to repeat, for instance, internment camps like what we saw during World War II. It would also be wrong for the United States to allow refugees in and force them to live in squalor.
Also, and this is an important distinction, this command deals with sojourners who are already with the Israelites.
Alastair Roberts addressed this in his piece:
The poverty of Christian reasoning in response to President Trump’s executive order has been shocking, if not unsurprising. For one, there has been a profound failure to distinguish between the ‘good’ of helping refugees and the ‘right’ of sensible policies for doing so. Careful reflection and deliberation upon the actual shape of the refugee problem and the sort of responses that might make a difference has been largely absent. Instead, we have witnessed a conflation of the good with the right, and the widespread assumption that the latter is self-evident from an appreciation of the former.
Many liberals who would never otherwise reference the Old Testament have (in a welcome move) exhibited a considerable concern that we apply its teaching to refugees. Many Christians have joined them in pious, yet deeply unconsidered, pronouncements, presuming that such things as the Parables of the Good Samaritan or the Sheep and the Goats, the fact that Jesus was a refugee, or various Old Testament statements on the foreigner or resident alien clearly and straightforwardly dictate the sort of approach we should take to Syrian refugees, with little regard for the more complex moral and practical reasoning demanded by the issue.
Roberts also addressed the problem with applying Old Testament teaching on foreigners with the refugees.
When using the Old Testament in this context, it is important to bear in mind the framework within which refuge would be given and the differences between foreigners whose stay was temporary and resident aliens (James Hoffmeier has some helpful thoughts on this, for instance). The resident alien was like a protected guest, treated as a member of the ‘family’ of Israel, but the guest/host distinction meant that they did not have the same status in key respects.
For one, God’s vision for Israel was robustly opposed to religious pluralism. It allowed for assimilation of outsiders into the Israelite people, but firmly opposed a sort of multicultural intermarriage. It restricted key civil rights to Israelites. Foreigners had to abide by the Sabbath law and other such things. The Law also restricted their rights of land ownership, meaning that they would typically be restricted to day labour, artisanal work, trade, etc. It restricted the possibility of entrance into fuller civil rights for a number of generations, and more in the case of certain people groups (Deuteronomy 23:3-8). It denied them certain of the protections enjoyed by Hebrew slaves and certain of the rights enjoyed by Hebrew slave-owners. The nation also retained an ethnic core to its identity.
The welcome (and occasional assimilation) of the stranger, then, was a crucial value, but the relationship was typically that of guest/host, with the limits typical of such a relationship applying. This is not the same thing as we are dealing with in the current situation.
Since God in His word did not clearly spell our what the Church’s response to the refugee problem should be it is important that we are charitable with one another. Augustine has been credited with saying, “In the essentials, unity; in the non-essentials, liberty; in all things, charity.”
We must be charitable with one another.
A discussion needs to be had, but it has to be based on facts, not a knee jerk reaction. We should have concern for the refugee, but we have to recognize that the issues and information that drives policy is complex. We must be thoughtful.
It’s good to help refugees, but our government has to consider what would be a sensible policy in order to help refugees while, at the same time, protect national security. There is no silver bullet solution for this.