With the recent travel ban and the subsequent Supreme Court decision striking it down, it seems that the topic of Muslim refugees is in the news again. So, I thought it might be good to take a few minutes exploring some questions surrounding this issue. What responsibility, if any, do we have as Americans toward the refugees of the world? What responsibilities do those of us who consider ourselves to be God’s people have in this situation?
Many would argue that the primary responsibility of a government is to protect its citizens. Thomas Hobbes wrote that “Government is a contract between rulers and their citizens,” and I believe that Scripture bears this out as well. In 1 Samuel 15, King Saul is sent to war to defend his people, even at the cost of the deaths of thousands. Our government’s primary responsibility is to American citizens. Now that does not mean that we would be right to close off our borders and shut out any potential refugees that may need our help. It simply means that we must recognize two things. First, wisdom is called for. The command to love our neighbor is not a command to abandon common sense and protective measures. In fact, governments are not actually commanded to neighbor love, that command is given to God’s people. This brings me to
This brings me to the second point that we need to recognize. Human political solutions will always come up lacking when dealing with problems that are ultimately spiritual and make no mistake about it, this is a spiritual problem. The things that the Assad regime, the Islamic State and others are doing are evil, plain and simple. This is not a failure of diplomacy, this is the brokenness of the human race on display and when confronting a problem of this magnitude, political solutions are never going to be complete. We could never solve the humanitarian crises in the world by simply moving them to America, so while this is an option that can and should be on the table, let’s not kid ourselves and think that this is the ultimate answer.
This is where the second question comes in. What responsibility do God’s people have in all of this? In Exodus 23, we read, “You shall not oppress a sojourner – refugee wouldn’t be a bad translation here – for you were refugees in the land of Egypt. The American Government’s primary responsibility may be to defend and protect its citizens, but the primary responsibility of her Christian citizens is to love their neighbor, no matter who they are or where they came from. God’s people shouldn’t be the first ones banging the drum to send them home, but we should be the first ones out there caring for the poor, giving aid to the needy, remembering that we are all sojourners in God’s World. A land that we inhabit, but that ultimately does not belong to us. I’m not suggesting that we ought to let everyone in with no background checks; that’s not responsible. What I am saying is that I’m not satisfied that my only two options in this crisis are indiscriminately rounding everyone up or opening the borders wide and letting everyone in with no thought toward security. I think there has to be quite a bit of space in between these two options and I think there is a better solution out there. I also think that it’s time that the American people demand that both political parties stop using this issue to divide and start working together to figure out what that