So what about all these Syrian immigrants ... do we let them in or not? I trust you are as confused on this matter as I am! You've probably read, as I have, articles on both sides of the issue, all professing to be the "Christian" position. This is obviously a very complex, controversial, and politicized matter that demands prayerful and serious attention. Thus, the first thing we need to be doing is to be praying for our leaders as they wrestle with this deal. Then we can go back to our water cooler discussions of what our government should do! And when someone determines the perfect solution to this dilemma we can be assured that it will be shared via social media.
While we ponder our position on the mass numbers of Syrian and other immigrants flooding into the USA perhaps we should also ponder our response to some other folks inside our defined and comfortable borders.
- How about the church guest who enters our building? They likely come a bit fearful, not knowing anyone, hoping to find a welcoming handshake and conversation, yet often are ignored and allowed to sit alone.
- How about the neighbor down the street? Maybe they've lived there for a long time or maybe they're new residents, but we've yet to risk our time and comfort to welcome and invite them into our world.
- How about the boy/girl at school who doesn't seem to fit in to any particular clique, who is quiet and tends to withdraw, and who lacks friends? Perhaps they don't fit into our group either because we've allowed the world, rather than the Gospel, to define our group.
- How about the co-worker struggling to find acceptance? And we continue to deny that person attention because we choose to find our identity in our work, peer group, performance, etc. rather than in Christ.
- How about that friend who is going through a tough time? And because we don't want all that messiness in our life we back away from them.
- How about ...
This list could obviously go on and on. But the fact is that even without Syrian refugees there are numerous people all around us who threaten our perceived "stability" and "way of life." And while the Syrian refugee issue is very complicated, how we treat our neighbor really isn't! Let me urge us as a church to love our neighbors, reach out to those in our midst who need friendship, care for those we find alongside the road who are in need, be willing to risk our comfort, welcome the stranger in your sphere of relationships, and live out the Gospel in word and deed.
But this is much more than just a call to reach out to others. It's a call to remind ourselves that we were once the outsiders to God's Kingdom ... we were the enemy, the ones who needed care, the outcasts, the lonely, the needy, the scum, the undesirable, etc. We were the sinners who deserved nothing but God's wrath and condemnation. Yet God in His grace sought us out, redeemed us through Jesus Christ, welcomed and adopted us into His family, and daily abides with us through His Spirit. When we begin to saturate our hearts in God's amazing love for us we'll then be compelled to show that same love to others. So right now, pause and give God thanks for the grace shown to you through His Son Jesus Christ.