Missio Alliance is excited to be part of the GC2 Summit, “Showing & Sharing the Love of Jesus Christ to Refugees and Refugee Communities,” to be held at Wheaton College on Wednesday, January 20. We encourage all who can to join us whether in person or via the live stream.
There are few things more clear in Scripture: when it comes to the mission of Jesus, the mission consistently points us to the most vulnerable.When it comes to the mission of Jesus, the mission consistently points us to the most vulnerable. Click To Tweet
In Luke 4:18-20, Jesus, in announcing and inaugurating His public ministry, points back to Isaiah and says, “the Spirit of the Lord is on Me, because he has anointed Me to preach good news.” But then His focus for the remainder of the passage is on the marginalized. We see throughout the Scriptures a theme of God’s concern for the widow, the orphan, the sojourner and the stranger.
In today’s world, this need may be most clearly encapsulated in what has become the refugee crisis. As stated in an recent post at my blog:
Over 200,000 Syrians have died in their 4.5 year conflict. That is roughly the equivalent of the Paris death toll every day since the start of their struggle. Approximately 25% of those killed have been women and children, and over 80,000 of those killed have been civilians. This has led to a mass exodus where over half the population of Syria, 12 million people, have now had to flee their home looking for safety. It’s not just a Syrian refugee crisis, but that’s become the news. That impacts the Middle East, and much of our efforts should be there—working for peace, serving the hurting, and helping people settle there. The vast majority of work is in the Middle East, but also conversations about refugees are also at work in the West.
There have been encouraging aspects to the response by Christians. Over the last few weeks, I’ve preached at several different churches of several different denominations and heard local church leaders give exhortations or admonitions of how they are going to be in involved in refugee ministry, including the Syrian refugee crisis. At Christ Fellowship in Miami, where I serve as teaching pastor, people were giving to and helping with Syrian refugees on more than one occasion.
However, the reaction has been predominantly disheartening. There’s an obvious divide on this issue that is demonstrated statistically by LifeWay Research’s findings and anecdotally by looking anywhere on Facebook. The gap exists between many Christian leaders who see a great need to engage in this crisis and the majority of evangelicals.
Perhaps due to our being in a political season or people are reacting to news events and global terrorism, polling tells us most evangelicals are fearful and afraid. Recently at Christianity Today, I compared Christians and the current refugee crisis to our response to AIDS in the 1980s.
The Christian Response to the AIDS Epidemic
As with many unknowns, the early defining response among Christians was fear. We feared it was a polio of sorts—don’t swim in the pool with my children, don’t engage in conversation with me, don’t play on a sports team with me. Speculation that AIDS could be caught from toilet seats was rampant.
Christians missed an opportunity to step into a moment showing and sharing the love of Jesus to hurting people. Some did, there is no doubt. There were Christians who were early advocates on the AIDS issue. But many who came late were slow because they were frozen by fear.
Leaders who knew better wouldn’t speak up, leaving people who trusted them unaware and afraid. Fear won the decade before Christians seriously engaged in what had become a global crisis. It was a humbling experience that continues to damage our efforts and our relationships, especially in the LGBT community.
We can now find examples of evangelicals leading groups engaged in the fight in HIV/AIDS. For this we are grateful.
Faithfulness, not fear, is our calling.
Yet, while history does not repeat itself, it does tend to rhyme.
What we see over and over is that fear becomes a defining narrative for Christians when the facts are not known, or there is a lack of certainty. That’s what some Christians were still saying about twenty years after it was discovered how the disease spread.
At present we find ourselves in the midst of an historic crisis and an opportunity to lead differently. There is an international refugee crisis.
Historically, we find is that when Christians have stepped into crises, God has rewarded their faith in positive ways.
So we must encourage one another, and ultimately learn what’s going on in the Middle East and how might we respond there, and what’s going on here, and how we might respond here. We must be peacemakers, discerning about security, but also driven by compassion—and these are not mutually exclusive concerns.
In light of this, as part of my role at the Billy Graham Center of Evangelism at Wheaton College, I’ve called a summit on how Christians might address the refugee crisis.
I spoke with numerous Christian leaders and—without exception—every person said they wanted to be there. Many actually will be present, while others who could not make it were still so passionate they made a video to speak into the issue.
In the last three weeks, we have assembled a gathering in Chicago that, I believe, will put a stake in the ground. It will demonstrate evangelical leaders want to care for refugees and show they are not afraid.
Then, moving beyond the summit, the hope is they will speak to evangelicals across the country and say, “Let’s be driven by faith and not by fear. Let’s serve the refugee, the hurting, the sojourner and the foreigner. Let’s show and share the love of Jesus in the midst of a broken and hurting world.”
The mission of Jesus dwelt on the most vulnerable; His church should have the same mission today.The mission of Jesus dwelt on the most vulnerable; His church should have the same mission today. Click To Tweet