“Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”
(From “New Colossus” by Emma Lazarus)

The Syrian refugee crisis has become a politically charged issue in our election-driven news cycle. But this is a moral issue. What is the right thing to do? We must decide as a nation and as individuals. Once that is determined, implementing the process safely and securely carries political ramifications for our government.

As a follower of Christ, the most important perspective for determining right and wrong as an individual and as a nation is what the Bible says. Regarding refugees, the Bible addresses it thoroughly and Jesus also did personally.

The Old Testament urges special care and kindness both nationally and individually toward foreigners or sojourners (check the concordance), typically the words used for refugees. The New Testament emphasizes hospitality toward strangers and inclusion of all races and nations in God’s family. Here are verses from both.

Massacre of the InnocentsCreative Commons License paukrus via Compfight

Infant Jesus’ family became refugees when they fled to Egypt, escaping Herod’s massacre of the infants of Bethlehem. Mary and Joseph with baby Jesus embarked on a long journey across hostile territory and made a temporary refugee home in Egypt for several years.

Years later, when Jesus explained how we prepare for the future day of His return, He chose refugee-sojourner-prisoner scenarios to illustrate the deeds that determine who truly belongs to Him. His words are challenging. They make us squirm. He said:

“Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’

“Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’

“The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me’” (Matthew 25:34-40 NIV).

Palestine_Haifa_Haifa_NK16662Creative Commons License gnuckx via Compfight

Who is my brother or sister? Jesus impressed upon us that love toward all others is required. The Bible teaches forgiveness toward enemies, charity toward outcasts, kindness toward strangers, and humility toward all. Believers don’t depend on political gurus, TV talking heads, or religious trendsetters for our values. Rather we draw these straight from the One who came to die for us, directly from His words in the Bible.

Most of the positions Jesus took were controversial – healing on the Sabbath, eating with sinners, forgiving sins, etc. Most of His parables and stories were likewise radical. They demanded love and forgiveness as evidence of true salvation. The tale of the “prodigal son” and of the “good Samaritan” are two examples. These types of stories and Jesus’ actions prompted outwardly religious, pharisaical people to hate Him.

But these cause me to love Him.

Jesus broke down the barricades erected by the religious, so that those who knew they were broken could come to God. He still does. The gospel is about grace. He came to forgive. He gave us a mission. We are His hands and His feet in the world. Our mission is to reach the world with the gospel. It’s the last instruction He gave.

If we don’t love the world as He loved the world, how can we do this? And why would they listen?

Children of Palestine Tijen Erol via Compfight

For these reasons, I support welcoming refugees into our country, hoping priority is given to families of small children. This is a “good Samaritan” issue of loving our neighbors as Christ would have us love them. This is evidence of our faith. Knowing our elected officials want to keep our country safe, I choose to trust them to continue to implement thorough vetting procedures.

I understand that safety in not a guarantee in any part of the world at any time. This is a fallen world, and we should not expect heaven here on earth. No outcomes are guaranteed in this life. No path leads unfailingly to “safety” on this side of heaven. One day we will each stand before God and answer for how we carried this out.

Will we embrace our calling in this perilous time?

Click to read the National Association of Evangelicals’ refugee policy.

Click to read Desiring God’s article by David Crabb about what God is doing.

Click to read Desiring God’s “Eight Words from Jesus in a World with Refugees”

Click to read Faith Radio’s article by Brett McCracken: Costly but Christlike.