Once again, hearts around the world are broken. Our collective sense of safety is made more thin. Each day, another tragedy. Another encounter with evil. Paris. Mali. Egypt. Lebanon. That’s only this month.
What’s our response to be as we contemplate refugees coming to our country? Opinions are heated on both sides.
If we say, “Let them come; don’t be afraid,” we’re naïve.
If we say, “Don’t let them in,” we’re heartless.
Isn’t there a middle ground? Why can’t we do both? Be wise and thoroughly screen all the potential refugees, weeding out those involved in terrorist activities, while actively caring for those fleeing for their lives, providing them asylum and friendship.
Isn’t that what Jesus himself said when he sent his 12 disciples out to tell a lost world the good news? “I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves” (Matthew 10:16).
The One who gave us the example of the Good Samaritan also said, “Be on your guard” (Matt 10:17). It’s interesting that he told that well-known parable after another bunch he’d sent out had returned. This time, they numbered 72 and this time they returned with joy (Luke 10). Jesus specifically chose the backdrop of sharing the gospel with strangers to illustrate the way to be a good, compassionate neighbor and also to stress the importance of wisdom and discernment.
Be on your guard, but don’t withhold love and mercy.
Both. Together. Balance.
When I lived overseas, it didn’t hurt my feelings that I had to go through lengthy background checks to receive my residence visa in each country I lived in, or even to enter countries at border crossings. That seemed reasonable. It’s foolish for leaders not to try to protect their people. Screening potential immigrants only delays the entry of law-abiding people; it doesn’t prevent it.
And yet, another thing happened to me when I lived overseas. I saw the faces of refugees up-close. It isn’t theoretical to me anymore. Political refugees are in a completely different category from people wanting to immigrate to have a chance for a better job and better education for their children. While that’s a legitimate desire, it’s not in the same league as mothers huddling with their hungry, cold babies in long lines at borders, afraid that they will be killed if they don’t take the risk. How can we walk past them? How can we leave the task to countries much smaller than ours, already stretched to the breaking point?
Lord, what do you want us to do?