First the influx of postings sympathizing with the victims of ISIS attacks.  Well, some of the victims.  I don’t think I saw many people changing their Facebook photos to a Lebanese flag, or a Russian flag, and I doubt that there will be many Nigerian flags showing up on Facebook either.

Now the issue eliciting righteous indignation from both sides of the political spectrum is the issue of refugees.  Two dozen states are currently indicating they will not accept Syrian refugees that the Federal government is committed to resettling in the US.  Conservatives argue that some of these immigrants could pose a security threat.  This is an argument that was being used prior to the Paris attacks, and which has taken on new urgency in their aftermath.  Liberals argue that any hesitancy to receiving immigrants demonstrates a blatant racism and xenophobia.

Once again, rather than working together to help solve a problem, we divide into our camps and lob insults at one another.  How mature.  How unhelpful.

I’ve argued for some time, at least in my head, that there are solutions to this issue that might satisfy both sides of the debate.  The US could stipulate that we will only accept refugee families.  Using the logic that someone with a spouse and children is less likely to kill themselves with a bomb or seek to end their lives in a gun battle, we could undoubtedly be of great help to people who truly need help.  I’ve only heard anecdotal stories of how many of the refugees seem to be single men between the ages of 18 and 35.  It would be interesting to see some hard statistics on how many families comprise the tide of refugees.

Somebody posted this article on Facebook, describing the Biblical response to refugees.  It’s interesting and helpful, to a certain extent.  A few observations.

Firstly, we need to contextualize the Old Testament references.  There is a theological debate that needs to be had – are these commands limited to God’s people in their geo-political entity known as the Promised Land, a theocratic institution that ended for the most part with the destruction of the first Temple by the Babylonians in the early 6th century BC, and which, at the latest, was destroyed completely by the Romans in 70 AD with the destruction of the Second Temple?  Or are these more generalized commands that should be assumed as binding to God’s people today?  That’s an actual discussion that would be useful before throwing Bible verses around.  The obligations of a theocratic people towards strangers might arguably be very different than a secular representative democracy.

Secondly we would want to discuss the terms that are used for these people.  The Hebrew word translated as foreigner or stranger is not necessarily a refugee.  In other words, the Biblical texts are much more far-reaching than the way they are being applied to immigrants.  And note that these texts all deal with strangers already among God’s people – they aren’t political road maps to who to let into the country in the first place.

We could also point out many Biblical verses that use the same Hebrew word, but point to implications that some folks would prefer to ignore.  Leviticus 16:29 and Exodus 12:49 insist on equity for the stranger, but also imply that the stranger is to follow the laws of God’s people.  In fact, there are a LOT of verses that require the stranger/foreigner to abide by the rules of God’s people, and these are religious rules, not just what we might call civil law.

The quote from 1 Corinthians is pretty out of place here, since it is speaking of believers in Jesus Christ, not just people in general.  It is Christ that makes us into one where there is no distinction before God.  It is not that these distinctions don’t remain among us, but they are not distinctions before God.  Before God what distinguishes us is only whether we are in Christ or not.

Yes, overall Scripture does call the children of God to hospitality and to welcoming strangers and outsiders.  I don’t think too many people would debate that in the case of Syrian refugees either.  What we do doubt is how our government will go about deciding who enters and who does not (what about Christian refugees as well as Muslim?).  This initial phase of things is a political one, not a religious one.  It is not Christians determining who the stranger is and responding to them, it is the government telling us who the stranger will be and how we must respond to them.  That seems like a slightly (or very) different situation.

It would be nice to hear people talking about ways that we could help people in need, while also remembering that we live in a sinful world and that nothing is safe.   Safety is not the only priority for the Christian, but it is also not something that needs to be completely ignored.  It would be nice to hear people working together instead of calling names.  A lot of energy gets wasted in the process – energy that could be better directed to actually helping people.


One Response to “Compromise”

  1. You’re Welcome, Canada | Living Apologetics Says:

    […] Great minds think alike.   Certainly, there’s no guarantee of perfect safety in any course of action, but I’d like to think that this offers a genuine way of responding to a crisis intelligently. […]

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