By Alan Rudnick
As terrorist attacks impacted cities around the world like Paris and Beirut, we have learned that some of the terrorists falsely used refugee status to cross borders. As refugees continue to leave Syria in massive numbers, Republican governors and presidential candidates have made statements that Syrian refugees are not welcome. The painful reality of this situation is that many of these governors and presidential candidates are self proclaimed evangelical Christians.
Evangelical Christians are people “of the Book,” that is, the Bible. Though these Republican governors and candidates claim Christianity as their faith, they fail to understand the biblical reality of refugees, strangers and political aliens.
God’s people were aliens and refugees. The story of Exodus is the story of God’s people without a land and without a home. God delivered the Israelites because “he heard their cry.” The Babylonian Exile deported the Israelites from their home. Their culture and place of worship were destroyed. God promised to redeem his people. Even Moses taught the people, “Do not mistreat an alien or oppress him, for you were aliens in Egypt” (Exodus 22).
God compels us to care for strangers. The story of the Good Samaritan is Jesus’ way of saying, “Hey, remember that Jews and Samaritans don’t get along; well, I’m going tell you about a story of how you have to care for people. Even those who you despise.” Samaritans were persona non grata in Jewish circles. The reality is, if we claim to be a Christian, or even claim we have a Christian nation, our duty and responsibility is to care for those in need.
Jesus called for his followers to care for the least. In Matthew 25, the nations are gathered and the righteous wondered when the King (Jesus) was sick, imprisoned or a stranger. The reply is, “I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these, you did for me.” Jesus serves as the final authority of how we are to greet and care for the least of these.
Women and children are of special concern. In wars, famine and civil conflict, women and children are often the most displaced. James writes to scattered people, “Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.” In the ancient world, if a father or husband died and had no brother, his children and wife were left without protection.
As tens of thousands of refugees flee Syria, they are a people without a land. They are aliens without a home. Syrian refugees are strangers to us who have a culture, language and religion different from us. They are the least of these. They are men, women and children who are in need of a new place to call home. This “Christian nation” is called by scripture to care for Syrian refugees.
As a grandson of an immigrant, my family could not have thrived without the open immigration policy of the United States in the early 20th century. My grandfather came as a child from Poland with his mother and brother looking to make a new home. Millions of Americans are here because their parents and grandparents traveled to the United States for a better home and opportunity. How can we as Christians deny the same security and open borders that our families received?