On Saturday, 14 November 2015, Paris, France was victim to a heartbreaking terrorist attack. Later that week across the pond, U.S. leaders, citizens, churches, and relief organizations rage in debates on whether or not Syrian refugees should be allowed on U.S. soil. To date, 26 states have stated that they will refuse to allow in refugees. The legality of these claims is debatable, but the action alone sends a striking message: You Are Not Welcome Here!
What is more troubling has been the response from some segments of the church. While I am overjoyed that many Christians of various denominations and political leanings have declared support for refugees, there remains a piercing voice under the Christian banner strongly denying any refugee acceptance. Some of the more “compassionate” deniers have even advocated for allowing in Christian refugees, but not those who are Muslim. As a follower devoted to the Way of Jesus, these claims have left me perplexed, confused, and bewildered. How, given the teaching of Jesus and the Church, does a Christ-follower conclude to refuse support to refugees?
While not completely prescriptive, I’d like to suggest, at least in part, that the American church has an incomplete view of Jesus. Christians from all walks can rally around Jesus as God. We love to preach Jesus, the second member of the godhead, sitting at the right hand of the Father. Through accepting him into our lives, we receive eternal life, and we can forever look forward to the glory that awaits in heaven where we are in the presence of our God for eternity.
While this is a beautiful and important part of the Gospel story, by stressing this side of Jesus are we over-deifying Jesus? By this I mean are we reducing Jesus to simply a spiritual force focused on his followers’ salvation, while negating his humanness? How often do we praise the humanity of Jesus, except when he’s dying on the cross for our sins? As we reduce Jesus to only God, we create a religion of who’s in and who’s out - an us versus them mentality. In a sense, we’ve become a religion of Pharisees, thanking God for our salvation and how we’re not like the Muslims, or ignoring the plight of the needy to protect our own “cleanliness” (safety/security?).
When we evaluate the humanity of Jesus, we realize that he takes the form of those we are opposing. Let’s discover that:
Jesus was a bastard (Luke 2:5)
Jesus was a middleastern refugee (Matthew 2:13-15)
Jesus associated with other cultures and religions (John 4:4-42)
Jesus was homeless (Luke 9:58)
Jesus was called a blasphemer (Mark 14:62-64)
Jesus was charged a criminal (Mark 15:15)
In our worship of the living Jesus, we must recognize that as much as Jesus is God, he is also the illegitimate homeless refugee criminal. Therefore, as much as we cry to Jesus in praises and prayers, we must also welcome the child, refugee, homeless, Samaritan (Muslim), and criminal. In doing so, we are welcoming the refugee King Jesus.
“Come, you who will receive good things from my Father. Inherit the kingdom that was prepared for you before the world began. I was hungry and you gave me food to eat. I was thirsty and you gave me a drink. I was a stranger and you welcomed me. I was naked and you gave me clothes to wear. I was sick and you took care of me. I was in prison and you visited me.
Then those who are righteous will reply to him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you a drink? When did we see you as a stranger and welcome you, or naked and give you clothes to wear?” When did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’
Then the king will reply to them, ‘I assure you that when you have done it for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you have done it for me.” (Matthew 25:34-40)
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