A couple months ago, I received an email addressing a subject that is a common topic today in conversation as well as on social media. The email got me thinking and I started to read more on the subject as well as to pray more. The email’s realistic yet compassionate message was inspiring.
In sharing this my goal is not to stir up anger, unhealthy debate, or inspire fear. Instead my hope is to encourage people to become informed in a way that will lead to conversations and actions that will help to change our world one person at a time. And especially to anyone who calls themselves a Christian, my hope is that you would pray more, live like Jesus Christ and show the love and light of the triune God to everyone no matter what their background, religion or race.
November 16, 2015
Syrian Refugees: Bring Them On
Recently President Obama proposed bringing 10,000 Syrian refugees into the U.S. This is only a tiny portion of the hundreds of thousands that have fled to Europe, which in turn is a small portion of the millions that have fled just over the borders to Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey. But after the attacks in Paris and San Bernardino, many American leaders do not want to bring in any. And a few days ago Donald Trump said he wanted to exclude any Muslim from entering the U.S. until we “figure out what is happening.”
The fear is understandable. Obama promised that the refugees would be “rigorously vetted.” But this is likely to be the same kind of vetting that let Tashfeen Malik (the woman terrorist in San Bernardino) enter the U.S. two years ago on a K-1 (fiancee) visa. Since she came from Pakistan, which is known to harbor extremists, she was even subject to more vetting than others. We now know that she was already “radicalized” by then, and this was not picked up by the supposedly rigorous vetting.
So is Donald Trump right? From the American national security point of view, maybe he is. But from the Christian point of view, he is wrong.
Trump and many other politicians talk about keeping us “safe.” But Jesus never promised that we would be physically safe. In fact, He said “Behold, I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves, so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves. Beware of men, for they will deliver you over to courts and flog you in their synagogues, and you will be dragged before governors and kings for my sake, to bear witness before them and the Gentiles” (Matthew 10:16-18). Being flogged is not “safe.” In the time of Jesus, being delivered over to courts, governors and kings often meant death. Of the eleven disciples who remained after Judas, ten were martyred. See 2 Corinthians 11:24-27 for all the unsafe things that the Apostle Paul endured. Only John died a natural death.
As an example of a “worst case scenario,” back in 1981, an Islamic terrorist came to America from Lebanon on a legal visa. His purpose was to develop jihad cells and attack us from within, but God had other plans. He was in a severe car accident, and a Christian doctor took care of him, not knowing who he was – only a foreign man who needed help. After some time in a hospital, the doctor took him into his own home for months of recuperation. This completely exploded the terrorist’s idea of Christianity. When he left the doctor’s home, he could only fall on his knees and pray to God, who revealed Himself to this now ex-terrorist. The doctor practiced radical Christian hospitality and was used by God to bring this very unsafe man into the Kingdom.
So yes, we should be “wise as serpents” and examine the refugees as well as possible, knowing that like in the case of Tashfeen Malik, we will miss some. But for the sake of “bear(ing) witness before…the Gentiles,” I say “Bring them on.” It is very difficult for them to hear the Gospel in Syria and Iraq, but here they can. Our bodies may not be perfectly safe, but our souls are perfectly safe in Christ.
Alexander PierceThe “worst case scenario” described in the above email comes from a book called The Blood of Lambs: A Former Terrorist’s Memoir of Death and Redemption by Kamal Saleem. This book, written by Kamal, does tell his amazing story of conversion. However, the book primarily focuses on describing Kamal’s formative years, how Islam shaped his world view and his journey that eventually brought him to the US.
I was shocked and disturbed by a lot of what was described in somewhat graphic detail. But it is those details that give the reader the whole picture of the ideology and culture that shaped Kamal and that continues to shape others.
However, one of the most impactful parts of the book for me was the descriptions of how Kamal first felt meeting Christians who lived out their faith. The light Kamal describes is something that I would hope could be found in any Christian home. However, it’s also convicting because so often Christians do not live their faith in such a transparent, deliberate way.
This book is worth reading, whether you are a Christian or not, it will be an interesting and informative read. And once you read The Blood of Lambs, you might be interested in digging a bit deeper, continuing to learn about Islam and how practically to engage Muslims while showing Christ’s love. For that I would recommend another recent read called Facing Islam, Engaging Muslims written by Alexander Pierce.
Enjoy reading and learning. May your conversations be inspired and informed.