I’M LOOKING FOR SOMETHING I haven’t found yet.
I asked my Bible study group for it on Sunday. No luck there.
My question was about the six million Middle Eastern refugees, and the fact that more than half of the people in this country—Christians included—don’t want any of them here. Not even one of them.
The last poll I read, in November, put the number at 53% against letting the refugees in, even if the refugees are vetted. Folks say they don’t trust the vetting process.
Here’s the question no one has yet answered for me.
What’s the Christian principle at work that says it’s okay to tell them “No, you are not welcome here”?
The topic of our Bible study session on Sunday was “Fear: When we turn tail and run.”
I knew that the pastor was going to be preaching on the topic of a Christian response to Islamic extremism. So I figured, why not talk about our fear of rescuing and welcoming even one soul out of six million.
I set up the question with the parable of the Good Samaritan.
I told the class that the parable began with a man asking Jesus, “What must I do to have eternal life?” (Luke 10:25).
Jesus said we needed to love God and love our neighbor as ourself.
The follow-up question: Who should we consider our neighbor? Jews at the time were debating that. Some rabbis said Jews had to look out only for fellow Jews – only Jews were their neighbors. Other rabbis said anyone could be our neighbor because God reigns over everyone. After all, in the time of the prophet Jonah, God saved the people of Nineveh, a city on the outskirts of what is now Mosul, Iraq.
In the parable of the Good Samaritan, a Jewish man is mugged and left for dead along the barren stretch of badlands between Jericho and Jerusalem. Jesus said two religious people walked right past him: a priest and a Levite, who was a priest’s assistant. In our day, that would amount to the pastor and the music director walking past a fellow church member about to die.
In fairness to the religious guys, maybe they were afraid the muggers were still nearby and might hurt them.
In the parable, the only person to stop and help this Jew was a Samaritan. This compassionate humanitarian who stopped was someone outside the religious club. It might amount to someone today like Brad Pitt, Angelina Jolie, Bono, or Bill Gates.
I told my Bible study group, “If Jesus says that to inherit eternal life we must love our neighbor as ourselves, and if he defines what it means to love our neighbor that way by telling us a story about two religious people who failed the test and did not help someone they could have helped perhaps because they were afraid for their lives, some wonder how Christians can possibly justify turning their back on six million refugees, refusing to welcome even one.”
I live in the state of Kansas. Our governor, Sam Brownback, issued an executive order requiring state employees not to help the refugees:
“…no department, commission, board or agency of the government of the State of Kansas shall aid, cooperate with, or assist in any way the relocation of refugees….”
Some Christian friends of mine are glad he did that.
When I asked the group what Christian principle is at work allowing us to get away with something like that, I got reasonable answers that made perfect sense:
- You are asking the wrong question. You should be asking…
- This is a Christian country. And those people are trying to come in here and turn us into a Muslim country.
- We have a right to survive. If we can’t survive as a nation how can we help anyone?
- I’m afraid of what will happen if they come here.
I cover the Bible beat. Maybe I’m missing something, but for the life of me I can find nothing Christian about any of those answers.
I understand the survival instinct, the desire not to get hurt, and the wish to keep our right to worship as Christians.
But Jesus put a lot of stock in loving our neighbor as we love ourselves. He values it as much as we value eternal life.
So when we see our neighbor starving in refugee camps, and then we walk away from them, what Christian principle puts the get up in our go?
If anyone out there has the answer, I would like to hear it.
For more about loving others
- Christians not afraid of getting blown to kingdom come
- WWJD with this neighbor
- Friends in need with friends in deed
- Christians doing nothing for nobody
David H. Hagen
I agree with you — there is no Biblical answer that supports their position. They are simply operating out of fear, and we all know where that gets you. My question to them is this: Do you think the disciples were afraid when the traveled to different countries to spread the gospel? They were even knew they could be killed for their message, yet the persisted! Where does the Bible tell us to close our borders to stay ‘protected’ from the rest of the world? Jesus does not call for us to be safe but obedient to His commands, and last time I checked ‘loving your neighbor as yourself’ is still one of His commands.
Stephen M. Miller
Thanks David. You just made half of all religious people angry. Jesus was good at that, too.
When you are right Biblically — I have no response! If the world (and our government for that matter) followed the principles of the Scriptures and Jesus teachings — this problem never would have come to this, in fact, there would be peace on Earth. No Country on earth seems to know how to deal with this problem — May God help us be better Christians and replace the fear with Christ’s love and wisdom.
Stephen M. Miller
Thanks Wayne. This is a tough topic that, I have discovered, gets Christians angry when they talk about it and encounter someone who disagrees with them.
I agree wholeheartedly with you on this Steve! It is frustrating to me as a pastor to preach on the subject of “Love thy neighbor” to even get amens until we get to talk about refugees, homeless, “different” people and then it gets very quiet. I’m not so sure its entirely a matter of fear, but I think we may be dealing with a matter of distrust of government and the fact that they don’t always do what they say they will do. I.e. “Vetting”. And there’s the natural inclination to protect our families and our way of life. But I can find no justification for that biblically. Love has no qualififying marks. Thanks for being a voice in the wilderness.
Stephen M. Miller
Thanks Dennis. I have discovered that people get pretty worked up about this topic. They do not think clearly. At times it really does seem as though their head is a well that has been poisoned.
All of you have valid points! We know as Christians we should try to do the right thing. Problem is, what is right? What is not right? As for myself I have no fear of the Arabs. However, I also hunted them down in Afghanistan for 18months, and for the most part they were hard working people just as we are, they have some of the same fears as most American people. There’s however is justified, I have seen what the Taliban does to those they even suspect might talk to us. I have seen whole Christian families massacred because of there bbeliefs, some still clutching there bibles. To a Muslim they think they have done a great service to Allaha. To the rest of the world they are barbaric. As to them coming to America I see no real issue with some of them entering this country, all you need do is look into the eyes of those who lived the pain.
Stephen M. Miller
Jim, thanks for that experienced insight. Thanks for your service to our country, and to the spirit of tolerance and compassion that you brought back with you. God bless your life and those who travel with you along the way.
kenneth W Heady
Its not Christian at all,but neither was segregation or jim crow but people who called themselves Christian still practiced it. Dont they know were the Good news of Christ came to the rest of the world from? Antioch in Syria! The Church there was the launching pad for the missions that Paul went on to evangelized the Roman Empire,and Syria has a large Christian population to this day, even though many have fled seeking refuge in “Christian Nations” only to be turned away for political reasons. As a African American in America I try to teach my children to respect and treat everyone fairly even when people dont do the same in return. Unfortunately fear rules the day
Boniface F D'souza
The reasonable answers as you described them were quite shocking as also hypocritical to me. If we put ourselves in the shoes of the refugees, it’s easy to understand that these are human beings(irrespective of their faith) who are attempting to survive/stay alive – not “those people are trying to come in here and turn us into a Muslim country” as my fellow Christians in-Christ put it. Unless of course these refugeesin conjunction with the conflicting factions in Syria) had planned the whole situation leading up to the current crisis. The responses also seem ridiculous not to mention amusing.
“This is a Christian country”. Sorry but America is no longer a Christian nation although, it started out as one and has gradually drifted away. Today ‘Evangelicalism’ is a multi-multi-billion dollar business/industry(One Market report said $121 bn) and the Superstar Christian leaders are as affluent as CEOs of mini-conglomerates. However despite the prosperity gospel televangelism, there are a still a large number of Christian ministries with sound Bible teachings – God is at work.
It is significant that your chosen parable of the Samaritan(not God’s chosen people) coming to the rescue, hit the nail on the head. Isn’t that what is happening today too? It seems that many non-Christian peoples & countries have similarly shown a Christian (or should I say Samaritan) spirit by accommodating refugees. While quite a few Christians, just like the Jews in the parable, turn away.
I recall the Phil Collins old hit song “She calls out to the man on the street ‘Sir, can you help me? It’s cold and I’ve nowhere to sleep, Is there somewhere you can tell me?’ He walks on, doesn’t look back He pretends he can’t hear her. Starts to whistle as he crosses the street. Seems embarrassed to be there…..You can tell from the lines on her face. You can see that she’s been there Probably been moved on from every place. ‘Cause she didn’t fit in there.” My eyes fill up with tears even now.
Can we Christians be the most hard hearted sometimes? Apparently yes. Mat 25:44-45 “They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’ “He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’ Better not think about what happens next.
Came across your book “The Complete Visual Bible” and was idly flipping through it when I came across your Commentary ” IT ISN’T GOD’S IDEA for Abraham to leave his hometown of Ur and move to what is now Israel. Not as the Bible tells it. Abraham’s father, Terah, comes up with the idea. But he settles his family in Haran instead, a city two-thirds of the way to Canaan. It’s only after Terah dies that God tells Abraham to pick up where Terah left off. GENESIS 12:1-2.
My NIV Bible(also the KJV) says “Gen 12:1 The LORD had said to Abram, “Go from your country…”. This fits with Acts 7:2-4 To this he replied: “Brothers and fathers, listen to me! The God of glory appeared to our father Abraham while he was still in Mesopotamia, before he lived in Harran. ‘Leave your country and your people,’ God said, ‘and go to the land I will show you.’ “So he(Abraham not Terah) left the land of the Chaldeans and settled in Harran. After the death of his father, God sent him to this land where you are now living.
I reached your blog after I was asking myself the question who is this guy? Your response to The Refugee issue seems great – Christianity in action.
After encountering the blooper, I am still asking myself “Is it safe to read the Book?” I’m wary of unsound Bible teachings not based on God’s word. Although you don’t claim to be a Christian Scholar, I am even less of one. Particularly taking into account your authorship of many best-selling Christian Reference books.
Stephen M. Miller
Hi, Boniface. Thanks for your encouraging comments.
About the matter of Abraham, when God called him to leave his country (as reported in Genesis 12), he was in Turkey at the time, and had been living there for many years. The report is at the end of Genesis 11. The Acts 7:2 reference is quoting Stephen who possibly had some other source of info, was incorrect in his history, or was trying to make a theological point that God was behind the journey from the very beginning. Bible scholars offer various theories about it.
I’m sure you’ll find plenty of bloopers in my books. I’m more human than the Stephen in the Bible. Peace to you.
Boniface F D'souza
Keep up the good work – if you have brought one person to your way of thinking (actually God’s way), that our responses are un Christ-ian, then it’s worth the effort. Honestly, I think you may have done better.
Let’s be heartened/take courage from these verses Mt. 16:25 For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will find it. Ga. 2:20 I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. Ga. 6:9 Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.
God’s Blessing & Love
Stephen M. Miller
Thanks so much for your added insight, Boniface.