About Engage

Engage exists to provide perspective on culture through the eyes of a Biblical worldview, showing how that worldview intersects with culture and engages it.

We are a team of 20-somethings brought together by a common faith in Jesus Christ and employment in our parent organization American Family Association.

Exploring the Tension

Nick Dean
Writing Consultant

The free world is being rocked with an epidemic-scale onslaught of refugees. Hundreds of thousands of men, women, and children are fleeing persecution, war, and poverty in desperate pursuit of asylum in western countries.  As events have unfolded and tensions boiled, politicians from the left and right are calling for borders to be opened or closed—with the echoes of religious leaders trailing not far behind.

While I sit comfortably at my computer typing these words, these many refugees are clambering out of pain and danger into a political and theological maelstrom—out of the pot and into the frying pan, as they say. This is a difficult issue, and because it is a difficult issue it comes to the forefront clouded by political conjecture, theological tension, and emotional gravitas. In the heat of it all, we are each left to distinguish between our response to known or suspected terrorists and the general refugee population, our response as individuals and the response of our government for the nation as a whole. Emotion inevitably muddies the political and theological discourse on either side, further complicating the already tense relationship between compassion and pragmatism. What our nation ought to do for the whole is not necessarily what the individual should do for the one. And it is difficult to determine how we as followers of Christ are called to apply Scripture in our personal responses and how, if at all, we should expect our government to do the same in its response.

This week Engage will be publishing varying responses to the issue. One regarding the challenge of how to pray for members of ISIS. Another stemming from a perspective of compassionate welcoming, seeing the opportunity for sharing the love of Christ. Still another stemming from a concern over how Christians understand the role of the individual and the role of the government. These are each wholly legitimate contributions to an ongoing, multi-faceted conversation. But before we dig into them, we must check a few things within ourselves.

We who are Christians are called to be followers of Christ first and politicians second, and so the need to approach such issues with Christlikeness is paramount. Maintaining fidelity to Scripture or a given political norm are certainly not mutually exclusive, but that should not be taken to mean they are always synonymous either. We must all resist the urge to conflate a biblical response with toeing a given party line, just as we must resist the urge to confuse a welcoming response to refugees with a protection or fight against terrorists—without ignoring either. So how do we explore the complexity well?

As trite as this may seem, we start with prayer. Prayer is not, or at least should not be, a substitute for serious consideration or action but is instead preparation for it. The act itself of prayer has a way of ordering the mind and heart, and it is also an invitation for the Holy Spirit to come as our Great Counselor who guides us as we explore the tensions that exist. After we have prayed, having asked the Holy Spirit to soften our hearts and open our minds to His will, we are then ready to delve into the Scriptures.

When exploring the Scriptures, though, we must be mindful of context and application. The parable of the good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37) is a profound demonstration of compassion regarding the proverbial “them.” For if ever there was a culturally unwanted, a proverbial them, it was the Samaritan. And yet, the compassionate response to the bruised and battered man transcended cultural boundaries and religious mores. Here again, though, the proper application of these Scriptures to present situations is not clean cut. Why? Because the Samaritan was not welcoming strangers into his own home, nor was he risking the well-being of anyone he knew. He saw to it that the injured man was cared for, but in something of a neutral territory.

Similarly, Old Testament, Levitical writings that speak to welcoming the sojourner (Leviticus 19:34) must be considered—particularly given these words were recorded by Jewish refugees themselves fleeing persecution in northern Africa. However, it should not be forgotten that most of these passages present the connotation of a sojourner passing through, not making a new home. And so while these Scriptures ought to prevent our hearts from being calloused to the sojourner, and slow to spurn them, they may not be the case for our government unilaterally opening borders and fast tracking citizenship.

The provision and hospitality that saving grace not only makes possible but encourages has an undeniable presence throughout Scripture. We see it in Old Testament law and history, we see it in New Testament teachings and parables, and we see it daily working out in our own ongoing salvation and sanctification (2 Peter 2:11). But how we apply these Scriptural admonitions remains difficult.

How we approach the tensions of whether or not to welcome refugees and how to bring them in or turn them away are not easy questions. Nor are there quick answers. This should trouble us, this should cause us to stop and consider. The complexity should draw us in, because lives are on the line. That is the reality. Closed borders and unwelcoming citizens mean men, women, and children will die—many of whom are not yet ready for heaven. But opening borders for temporary refuge carries a similar possibility for those already living in and around cities of refuge.

There is a very real risk of danger associated with opening your home to a stranger. And so when I say this is not easy and that this should trouble us, I am absolutely saying this is not easy for me. I am greatly troubled by it.  As humans, myself included, we seek to protect what is ours—especially those whom we love. Moreover, a government should protect its own citizens. But, ultimately, Christians are called to check their heart and mindset first, and then governmental policy. So, is it a Christian’s duty to place his or her family and resources above that of the refugee? Does living out the “us versus them” dichotomy mean putting their eternal importance on the backburner to our own present safety and convenience?

Everyone here on the Engage team is currently wrestling with these very difficult and complex questions. As we explore them this week, we invite all of you to explore them with us. In this article alone, I have posed a number of questions I am asking myself. These are questions all of us should ask each other. We would love to hear your own responses and your own questions. Please, share your thoughts in the comment section below. And may the Holy Spirit guide our conversation, and may we be spurred to subsequent action accordingly.



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