The current question regarding refugees (and others seeking entry into the US) is not an easy one for Christians. We’re guided by Jesus and His teachings and example which is typically totally athwart our natural inclinations. I often find that my initial reactions to situations, when carefully examined in the light of Scripture and the thoughtful guidance by the Holy Spirit, are out of step with my core convictions. In such cases I find myself needing to reflect on the complete wisdom disclosed in God’s word and then determining how it tracks with the overarching command to love. To love — even our enemies and those who would do us harm. It is possible to be both “… as wise as serpents and innocent as doves,” even in the midst of wolves, or else Jesus would not have so instructed us (Matt. 10:16). Here is a neat little devotional by my friend Jim Abernathy who is Pastor at the Westwood Baptist Church in West Springfield, VA. The devotional appeared in an email, a “Pastor’s Note,” to his congregation. Perhaps it will be meaningful and useful to you as you process your thoughts and feelings concerning the events we encounter in this dangerous world in which we Christians find ourselves to be foreigners and aliens. RMF
Who is my neighbor? A Pastor’s Note
by Dr. Jim Abernathy
Who is my neighbor? When asked this question, Jesus responded by telling a story about a beaten man whose savior was an unlikely character. Those who seemed most qualified, most nearly associated with a godly response in such a context walked around the hurting man…indifferent, perhaps afraid. The one who finally stopped to bind the man’s wounds and take personal responsibility for his continuing care was from a people despised by those who listened to Jesus’ story. It was a most unlikely scenario of grace and mercy.
Hearing the question again in this twenty-first century brings us, it seems, to a similar place. Faced with the overwhelming need of broken and displaced people, the temptation is to step around, to bypass the need. Indifference and fear mark the response that considers personal safety above human need. Who will step up…who will risk him or her self to extend grace and mercy to the broken and displaced?
This is not just a question for governments who consider the plight of refugees in the aftermath of terrorist’s activity, but it is a question for all of us for we are confronted every day with hurting displaced people who will not be helped unless we act with compassion, grace, and mercy. I understand the fear that too often drives our indifference. The standard Jesus sets, however, in defining one’s neighbor, calls those who follow Him to risk themselves when confronted with human need. Again, I understand that this ideal is easier said than done, but if we choose safety over compassion, expediency over generosity, or ideology over kindness, are we any different than those in the story of the Good Samaritan who avoided the broken and beaten man by stepping around him?
Pray for the leaders of our nation and those of other nations around the world. These are challenging days where fear is the weapon best used, it seems, to threaten the qualities of compassion and mercy so necessary in helping broken and displaced people. But let us understand that these are not only issues for governments and leaders to wrestle with. You and I must consider as well the question of identity in considering the neighbor in our midst. How will you and I respond to those in our path whose wounds call us to action?
One final thought…it is interesting in the dialogue between Jesus and the religious leader that led to the story of the Good Samaritan that the initial question had to do with eternal life. In responding, Jesus asked the man what scripture had to say on the matter. He responded, “You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your being, with all your strength, and with all your mind, and love your neighbor as yourself.” Jesus told him that he had responded correctly. “Do this and you shall live.” This prompted the man’s question about his neighbor. After telling the story, Jesus then asked the man who the neighbor was in the story, to which the man replied,”the one who showed mercy.” “Go and do likewise,” Jesus said.
Go and do likewise.