Hey. Did you notice that we are one week removed from the attack on Paris, one day removed from the governmental leaders declaring their position on refugees, and even though IS had 170 hostages this morning at a Radisson Hotel in Mali, society has, by-in-large, already moved on? The house has suspended Obama’s refugee placement program, so we can all rest comfortably again, so please enjoy this picture of my cat. (Yes, I do have the two cutest cats around).
I am impressed that we, as a nation, focused on the Syrian Civil War for nearly a week. Did you hear that Charlie Sheen announced that he is HIV+? The press, by in large, did not even let that bombshell outweigh our focus on the war, refugees and IS believing itself a major world power. Well done, America.
Refugee placement services felt an influx of support nationwide. I read that the Kentucky Refugee Ministries has received more support in the last week than they have in the last twenty five years of service, even as they welcome Syrians. Did you know, however, that the Civil War started four and a half years ago? Did you know that Syrians have been fleeing for their lives, by the masses, since that time? Did you know that we have received Syrian refugees here in the US? Not many, but already over 1,800.
Did you care two days ago?
Will you care tomorrow?
Probably not. But we all sure cared yesterday.
Why? Because we are all bandwagon activists. The age of the internet allows us to hear the headlines of the news, read a few opinion articles and form a thirty-second opinion, and anyone who disagrees with us is uninformed and a irrational. Forget the fact that many have given their lives to the study and development of international relations and foreign policies, and there are a very few who have devoted their lives to helping refugees learn a new life in a foreign country.
Sadly, this is characteristic of our culture and we, as Christians, prove ourselves to be just as guilty as the rest. We cite Scriptures about loving our enemies, praying for the world, espousing devoutly how it is our Christian duty to care for the widow and the orphan. But when was the last time you visited a widow or took care of an orphan? You might nobly disagree with our nation at large and declare that we should help refugees, but did you donate money to those organizations who have a plan in place? Did you go to the airport and pick up a family, help set up their new apartment, start teaching them English or help them in any way?
We have not progressed very far on the spectrum of sanctification.
We are chronically immature, selfish Christians who can get on the bandwagon vocally, but do not sacrifice our money, our comfort, our time or our energy to actually do something.
– James 1.27
“But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you…”
– Matt 5.44
“Never pay back evil for evil to anyone. Respect what is right in the sight of all men. If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men. Never take your own revenge, beloved, but leave room for the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay,” says the Lord. “But if your enemy is hungry, feed him, and if he is thirsty, give him a drink; for in so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”
– Rom 12.17-21
These are steep commands. These are steep commands against which our culture is squarely opposed. No, not necessarily in value, but in action. The elderly are considered irrelevant and we send them off to nursing homes because they get in our way and are a nuisance. We confine orphans to foster care and group homes because we want to have our own babies and are not interested in the baggage that comes along with a child who has been through serious trauma. We consider it honorable to turn the other cheek and practice patience, but cannot control our reactions well enough do so. Our comfort and our security come first. Justice – our own perception of it anyway – is rarely sacrificed for the sake of serving someone who just took advantage of us. No, I [intentionally] don’t carry cash, so stop begging me for it at every intersection.
Our American Dream worldview has stunted our Spiritual growth. Our expectation of and desire for immediate gratification has made us a bunch of pansies who cannot invest long term for a goal or persevere through trials. We get depressed. We take medicine to feel better. We give up and find something easier. We should enjoy our jobs, we should get paid that outrageous salary because I deserve it. My life should be comfortable.
Scripture teaches us that Spiritual maturity comes through trials and tribulations. We will not grow unless our faith is systematically tested by God:
“And not only this, but we also exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance; and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope; and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.”
– Rom 5.3-5
God orchestrates situations in our lives to develop our faith into maturity. The walk of the Christian is the process of becoming more like Jesus: dying to our sin and our flesh, and taking on the persona of the Holy Spirit. A person who is being led by the Holy Spirit is exemplified by the fruit of the Spirit:
“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.”
– Gal 5.22-23
So let us stop and consider our hearts and actions over the last few days. How many conversations did you have about the Syrian Civil War, which is now going on five years? How many conversations did you have about permitting Syrian refugees into our nation, and/or into your community? How many times did you pray about it? Did you actually do something, or did you just convey your wisdom to anyone who would listen?
This is a test, folks. And we, as a church, are headed down the path of failure, if we do not seek God, ask Him how we should respond, and invest. God many not be calling your church or your community to respond specifically to Syrian refugees. You might live in Indiana where that family was diverted, mid-travel, to Connecticut because your governor refused them entrance. But there is another widow or orphan that God wants you to care for. She might even be your own grandmother. There is another enemy to which you need to offer grace and love. It might even be your own brother when you go home for Thanksgiving next week.
Let’s not be bandwagon Christians. Let’s grow in perseverance and fight the good fight of faith. Let’s do something, and not just talk about it.
“But prove yourselves doers of the word, and not merely hearers who delude themselves.”
– James 1.22