Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world...I was a stranger and you invited me in… “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you a stranger and invite you in?… “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.” -Matthew 25:31-46
There is such a heated political debate and division occurring in America right now, over the “hot-button” issue of refugee’s and immigrants. There are very strong emotions being expressed on Facebook and other social media outlets. It is the current “crisis” of the last few years, but there is strong difference of opinion on how we ought to respond (or not respond). Some are fearful and concerned about safety and security. Others are outraged over policy deemed “anti-immigrant” or “anti-Muslim” or even an “Anti-Christian” attitude.
It is not my purpose in this article to wade into the political debate or policy decisions. My only comments are that first of all, the conversation should not be reduced to mere “politics” because we are talking about real people.
Secondly, national security and personal compassion do not need to be mutually exclusive.
Thirdly, there is some truth on both sides, but also extremes and hysteria on both “sides” that are divorced from reality and facts.
Fourthly, there is a difference between the role of government (punish those who do wrong, reward those who do good, protect it’s citizens: Romans 13:1-6) and the role of the church (Fulfill the Great Commission: Matthew 28:18-20). Christians are both citizens of a specific earthly country with laws, but we cannot forget we are most of all part of an eternal, heavenly kingdom. What really breaks my heart, are the number of self-professing Christians who seem more passionate and engaged in politics than the Great Commission and more concerned about an earthly kingdom than the eternal kingdom and people’s eternal destiny. (That is not to say Christians shouldn’t be engaged in politics as citizens, but just look at your posts on Facebook. Are they more about politics or a passion for the Great Commission?).
It is also not my purpose to communicate all the statistics regarding this unprecedented refugee crisis, because this is not about mere statistics but actual people. I just got back three weeks ago from meeting some of these real people in Ukraine. In fact, as I write this, some of the very people we met right inside a key city in the war-zone in Eastern Ukraine, are being forced to evacuate and have gone days without food, water, heat or electricity. The city has come under heavy attack and now more will be without a home. I have been watching video’s of them crying as they leave their homes and don’t know if they will ever be able to come back or if they will have a home to come back to, or what their future will hold. I have seen a video of the evacuation of one of the very families we just gave gifts too and met with in that very home they are now leaving. Their lives are not easy and the pain is real. Many of the kids have lost not only their homes, but their father’s in war. Many women have lost not only their home, but their husbands.
But anyway, there are just two main things I wish to communicate in this article. The first is that we are called to take care of the orphan, widow, poor and refugee. There is no doubt about this in Scripture. And if you don’t like hearing that because you are tired of being made to feel guilty if you don’t; I offer no apologies, because you may be experiencing what the Bible calls “conviction”, which is God’s gracious way of calling you to repentance. Repentance means to have a change of mind and heart.
How can I state that so boldly or confidently? Please notice that in the verses I opened this article with, which has a larger context than the portion I quoted, (see end of article for full context), Jesus takes it personally the way we treat others, especially those most in need. One of those groups of people he is particularly sensitive towards, are “strangers” or those without a home. What Jesus himself is telling us in this passage is that one way that the people of the nations of the world will be judged or rewarded, is by the way we treat refugee’s or the homeless (which don’t forget Jesus himself was once a refugee; he had no “home” during his earthly ministry and at his birth there was “no room” for him either).
In other words, regardless of whether we profess to be Christians (a Christ-follower), one way that is proven or dis-proven is by how we treat, serve, love and embrace those in need, such as refugee’s. Our attitude and actions towards others reveals whether our heart is actually opened or closed to Jesus himself.
But be careful! Even for those of us who say we care; notice we won’t be judged or rewarded based on what we say, but what we actually do. Scripture is quite clear and quite blunt that “faith without deeds is dead” (meaning it does not exist and is not real and you are deceiving yourself).
To be honest, one big reason I left pastoring a church for six years was because I got tired of preaching and teaching week in and week out, but seeing very little action. Oh, there were plenty of opinions shared (especially political), internal quarreling and debates over non-essential issues (homeschooling, worship-style, end-time positions); but very little actual collective change in our lives, impact in the community and around the world (there were of course some beautiful exceptions).
But the reality is, church to many of us in the US is only about coming to a service once a week (or less), listening to a sermon, singing a few songs, and then going on with our “real lives.” In many cases there is very little collective passion for prayer, for the Word of God, missions, evangelism and discipleship (which is what the church is to be all about!), but a lot of focus on non-essentials, church buildings and politics. Again, there are of course many wonderful exceptions (both churches and individuals). But I got bothered by the fact that when I looked at what ServeNow was doing (a brand new-organization at that time) with so little, and what we were doing with so much (and being a 150 year old church); ServeNow was impacting more people around the world in one week than we were in one year! Here I was just talking about serving and fulfilling the Great Commission while they were actually doing it!
So that brings me to this. It is easy to post about the homeless, vets, or refugee’s and give our political opinions or debate policy. But what are you actually doing? Get involved. Give. Go. Do something. If we are a Christian, regardless of our political views and safety concerns or security fears, we are called to show compassion to those in need. It is not an option, it is a command and it’s something Jesus takes very, very personally. How we speak and treat others is evidence of what is in our heart and what our real relationship is or isn’t with Jesus. Our problem is not really with people but with Jesus himself if we are unwilling to lift a finger to help.
Also, if we are calling ourselves a Christian, we should not have the attitude of “America only” or mindset of “there are people in need in America so why should we help those in other countries?” This isn’t an either/or issue and that attitude reveals we simply don’t understand the very core, heart and call of a follower of Jesus or his Church. We are first of all Christ-followers. And at the very core of the Gospel is that God so loved the world (John 3:16)…not just “our country.” Jesus calls us to go into all the world and do good to all people, even our enemies (Matthew 28:18-20, Galatians 6:10, Matthew 5:43-48). It’s not a point of discussion or debate, it’s an issue of obedience, flowing out of God’s love activated in your own heart and life. Yes, let it start right where you are at, but heaven forbid it stops here! Jesus was clear to his disciples, that they would be his witnesses beginning right where they were, but also going on out from there, to the very ends of the earth (Acts 1:8).
So, having said that, if you are still reading and aren’t angry with me (although perhaps the anger is really towards Jesus and the Scripture), and you want to do something or get involved, let me give you some very specific, practical and needed ways right now with helping refugee’s through ServeNow. (PS…there are many other organizations doing great things too. I admit that I am biased being that I lead this mission organization! But the issue is not whether it’s “with us” or others; what matters is that we all simply act in one way or another!).
One way is immediate physical aid for refugee’s. In just 24 hours I have been so blessed by the generous outpouring of God’s people when this need in Ukraine was made known, which will make it possible to serve thousands of people in immediate need! At the moment of writing this we are providing food, clothes and other necessities to refugee families: https://weservenow.org/donate/disaster-relief/
But we cannot just think “immediate.” We must also think “long-term.” We have staff on the ground and partner closely with churches to follow-up and keep working with people we serve. I wrote to our staff today, how thankful I am for them, that they are there before a crises, during a crises and after a crises! Many times “we” move on or the news moves on; but there is still ongoing need and other needs. So here are some ways to invest beyond the “immediate” in the months to come:
Sponsor sending refugee kids this year to one of our summer camps in Ukraine to help them emotionally, spiritually and psychologically and allow them to simply be kids. We have been hosting camps for the past couple of years, but the need and situations have become more and more heart-wrenching and heart-breaking because of the conflict. One couple that was with us in Ukraine caught the vision for this and has already promised to sponsor one entire camp. They would love if their gift would make possible one more camp than we did last year, in order to serve more kids: https://weservenow.org/donate/summer-camps/
Another is these special animals that are more than just stuffed animals; they contain a solar-powered audio device with the Bible and Bible stories on it in their language (Arabic or Ukrainian!): https://weservenow.org/donate/refugee-animalbible-project/
Another is Bibles and other evangelistic/discipleship resources. People are very open to the Good News of Jesus right now! We want to help train others as well to overcome fear and share the Gospel with refugees. Our materials are being used in the Middle East and among refugee’s in Europe. We are also working on translating other evangelistic/discipleship material into other languages to reach more in their native language: https://weservenow.org/donate/mediaserve/
And yet one more is providing life skill training opportunities for refugees. One dream of our Ukrainian director is to open a cosmetology “school” for refugee’s, with the teacher herself being a refugee! We would need $2,500 to begin with four girls this year: https://weservenow.org/donate/anti-trafficking/
One of the biggest ways however, you could help right now is by spreading the word about what ServeNow is doing. There is no end of opportunity and possibility. We have people on the ground ready to spring into action. We are able to serve Ukrainian refugee’s, Syrian refugee’s and refugee’s in Europe from various countries. We just need more partners and desperately need others to help raise awareness in their circles, networks, churches and among family and friends. We would be happy to provide all the information and tools you might need to engage others.
Lastly, but most importantly, please pray. There is no denying that times I have either asked people to specifically pray or people do pray, things happen. Doors open. The work moves forward. One specific prayer point right now is in regard to a group of leaders that we have just pulled together from various organizations in Colorado Springs. We are in the initial phases of exploring how we can partner together, combine our strengths and mobilize the church to take action in a way that makes a greater impact among refugee’s than what we could do alone. Please pray for God’s leading and direction; that He will show us exactly what to do, bring together those meant to come together and direct our steps, conversation and actions.
I will end with this statement and these questions: with all my heart I believe we are all here at this time in human history “For Such a Time as This.” But when you look at the world what do you see? Do you see only problems or opportunity to show and share the love of God with our neighbors and those in need? When you look at the masses of refugee’s do you feel only fear or compassion? I plead with you, see what Jesus see’s. Feel what Jesus feels. And do what Jesus has called us to do. Not everyone can do everything; but every one of us can do something. And that will matter to someone. Oh, and most of all to Jesus who treats it as if it was done unto him.
“When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his glorious throne. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.
“Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’
“Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, 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 needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’
“The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’
“Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’
“They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’
“He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’
“Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.”
-Jesus, Matthew 25:31-46