Disclaimer: The opinions stated in the blog and the interpretation of the following scriptures do not neccessarily represent the views of New Song Community Church.
Excuse me, Mr. President, you dropped your mic.
Regardless of our opinions of President Obama and what he said, and you’ll see as the post goes on it didn’t offend me, let those of us who confess Christ consider for a moment his argument about rhetoric.
A brief sampling of scripture as they appear in the Bible:
Do not oppress a foreigner; you yourselves know how it feels to be foreigners, because you were foreigners in Egypt. Exodus 23.9
When a foreigner resides among you in your land, do not mistreat them. The foreigner residing among you must be treated as your native-born. Love them as yourself,for you were foreigners in Egypt. I am the Lord your God. Leviticus 19.33-34
When you reap the harvest of your land, do not reap to the very edges of your field or gather the gleanings of your harvest. Do not go over your vineyard a second time or pick up the grapes that have fallen. Leave them for the poor and the foreigner. I am the Lord your God. Leviticus 19.9-10
He defends the cause of the fatherless and the widow, and loves the foreigner residing among you, giving them food and clothing. And you are to love those who are foreigners, for you yourselves were foreigners in Egypt. Deuteronomy 10.18-19
As for the foreigner who does not belong to your people Israel but has come from a distant land because of your name— for they will hear of your great name and your mighty hand and your outstretched arm—when they come and pray toward this temple, then hear from heaven, your dwelling place. Do whatever the foreigner asks of you, so that all the peoples of the earth may know your name and fear you, as do your own people Israel, and may know that this house I have built bears your Name. 1 King 8.41-43
Now this was the sin of your sister Sodom: She and her daughters were arrogant,overfed and unconcerned; they did not help the poor and needy. Ezekiel 16.49
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.’ Matthew 25.31-36
On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?”
“What is written in the Law?” he replied. “How do you read it?”
He answered, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’”
“You have answered correctly,” Jesus replied. “Do this and you will live.”
But he wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”
In reply Jesus said: “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he was attacked by robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead. A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, brought him to an inn and took care of him. The next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper. ‘Look after him,’ he said, ‘and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.’
“Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?”
The expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him.”
Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.” Luke 10.25-37
Okay, okay, okay.
But what about protecting our families from our enemies? Tommy, consider what Paul writes in his first letter to Timothy!
Anyone who does not provide for their relatives, and especially for their own household, has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever. 1 Timothy 5.8
And in context…
Give proper recognition to those widows who are really in need. But if a widow has children or grandchildren, these should learn first of all to put their religion into practice by caring for their own family and so repaying their parents and grandparents, for this is pleasing to God. The widow who is really in need and left all alone puts her hope in Godand continues night and day to pray and to ask God for help. But the widow who lives for pleasure is dead even while she lives. Give the people these instructions, so that no one may be open to blame. Anyone who does not provide for their relatives, and especially for their own household, has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever. 1 Timothy 5.3-8
There sure are a lot of widows in Syria trying to get to safety… Of course, there might be terrorists, actually there’re probably mostly terrorists hiding in their midsts and our first priority must be the swift defeat of our enemies. Right? The total destruction of ISIS(L) (and by proxy all who follow the teachings of Islam because every Muslim is obviously a terrorist) is the only reasonable and appropriate course of action:
“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect. Matthew 5.43-48
“Have faith in God,” Jesus answered. “Truly I tell you, if anyone says to this mountain, ‘Go, throw yourself into the sea,’ and does not doubt in their heart but believes that what they say will happen, it will be done for them. Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours. And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive them, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins.” Mark 11.22-25
“But to you who are listening I say: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. If someone slaps you on one cheek, turn to them the other also. If someone takes your coat, do not withhold your shirt from them. Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back. Do to others as you would have them do to you.
“If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners do that. And if you lend to those from whom you expect repayment, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, expecting to be repaid in full. But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful. Luke 6.27-36
This is naive! ISIS wants to kill all Christians. Don’t you get it, Pastor Tommy, ISIS wants to murder us because of what we believe!
Jesus said [as he’s being murdered for what he believes], “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” And they divided up his clothes by casting lots. Luke 23.34 emphasis mine.
While they were stoning [murdering] him [for what he believed], Stephen prayed, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” Then he fell on his knees and cried out, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” When he had said this, he fell asleep. Acts 7.59-60 emphasis mine.
My apologies for that rabbit trail. I’m not entirely certain how we conflated the issues about what to do, as Americans and as Christians – bearing in mind those two are not the same thing, for refugees seeking asylum from ISIS to discussing our defense position regarding ISIS.
Let’s get back to those refugees. What should we say, as Christians, regarding the Syrian refugees – some of which are Christians, others of which are Muslim? What must we pursue? Justice? Prudence? Mercy? Because our rhetoric will guide our actions and it sounds like the White House is planning on allowing 10,000 well vetted Syrian refugees into the states regardless of the positions of more than half of State Govenors.
The Bible seems to be overwhelmingly in favor of the people who first identify as Christians opening their churches, homes, and communities. And as I’ve said before, “If the Bible offends us the problem isn’t the Bible, and if it doesn’t offend we’re reading it wrong.”
Fine, but we must first take care of the homeless in America.
YES! Agreed! We must care for and show compassion to the needy in our own backyards but our homeless neighbors and our refugee (global) neighbors are not at odds. Those who claim Christ must be ready to show compassion to both without stipulation.
But, won’t the refugees be cold?
For more nuance on both sides of the argument I’ve found the following arguments helpful:
- Trevin Wax in the Washington Post: Should We Really Close the Border to Refugees? Here’s Why Fear Drives Out Compassion.
- Kevin DeYoung at the Gospel Coalition: Immigration Policy Must be Based on More than an Appeal to Compassion.
- Russell Moore at the Gospel Coalition: Should We Pray For ISIS to be Defeated or Converted?
- A Plea on Behalf of Victims of ISIS/ISL Barbarism in Iraq, a well reasoned inter-faith petition signed by evangelicals like Cornell West and Russell Moore.
Addendum 11.20.2015 – Apparently, after I posted this Donald Trump, with his always caustic rhetoric suggested, that Muslims should be registered.
Have you ever heard of Godwin’s Law? Because this is low hanging fruit.
Growing up I used to read books like Night by ElieWeisel, or Number The Stars by Lowis Lowry, or The Diary of Anne Frank by Anne Frank and wonder, “How could a whole nation be duped into such atrocities? Surely not every Nazi was a homicidal maniac. Surely there were otherwise [Ha! “Otherwise”, as if the atrociticies committed in Nazi Germany were just a series of bad decisions] good and kind people who participated in Hitler’s Regime. How did they get caught up in that?”
But, somehow, Trump is a frontrunner for President of the United States of America.
So, there’s that.