The Weekly Review

by Chris Bowler

Open Arms

You’ve likely become familiar with the current state of the Syrian refugee crisis. Perhaps not all the details of what’s going on over the other side of the ocean, but the debate that’s happening here at home in both Canada and the United States.

In the US, Obama and his staff have promised to increase the number of refugees taken in to 10,000, with that number to increase to 100,000 per year by 2017. Up here in Canada, our newly elected Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, is sticking to his campaign promise of taking in 25,000 refugees by the end of 2015. I cannot imagine all the work and logistics that are required to bring these promises to pass.

As well, I’m not familiar enough with immigration or security processes to have an opinion on the safety of this action. But I do know this: it doesn’t matter.

The debate happening around us is whether we should take these people in, whether in a certain time frame, or even at all. Some people, politicians included, say we should not take any of them in for fear of bringing bad people into our countries. Rubbish!

Here’s a few reasons I feel this way:

  • I’m fairly certain determined terrorists can already get into our countries
  • we already have bad people in our midst (see police brutality and mass shootings)
  • for many, many of us, our own ancestors were the refugees at some point

What saddens me the most in all this is that many who call themselves Christians are speaking against helping these people. If they’ve read the words of Christ, they should be well aware of His heart in this area. I don’t recall any passages in the entire Bible telling us to shut our doors to those in need. The live the safe life. Quite the opposite!

Over the past year, I had the privilege of teaching an adult Sunday school class on Christian discipline. And I’m in the middle of preparing another class on oppression in our current day for early 2016. Two verses have stuck out to me in preparing for both classes.

In Isaiah 58, God is speaking (through Isaiah) to the people of Israel about their religious practices. The heart of the message is that empty rituals are not why He gave them the law. All of their religious observances were intended to focus their hearts, but had become empty and meaningless. God responds in this way in verses 5–8 (NET):

Is this really what you call a fast, a day that is pleasing to the Lord? No, this is the kind of fast I want. I want you to remove the sinful chains, to tear away the ropes of the burdensome yoke, to set free the oppressed, and to break every burdensome yoke. I want you to share your food with the hungry and to provide shelter for homeless, oppressed people. When you see someone naked, clothe him! Donʼt turn your back on your own flesh and blood! Then your light will shine like the sunrise; your restoration will quickly arrive; your godly behavior will go before you, and the Lord ʼs splendor will be your rear guard.

And Christ gives a similar message in Matthew 25:34–40 (NET):

Then the king will say to those on his right, ʻCome, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me. ʼ Then the righteous will answer him, ʻLord, 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 naked and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and visit you? ʼ And the king will answer them, ʻI tell you the truth, just as you did it for one of the least of these brothers or sisters of mine, you did it for me.’

I could go on, for the Scriptures are filled with God’s heart for the downtrodden (see Exo 3:9, Lev 19:10, Deut 10:12-22, Psalm 12, James 1:27 for a taste). The picture is clear: God’s way of doing things results in everyone being taken care of.

Let’s hope our leaders make the right decision!

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