What Narrative Are We Writing in the Hearts of Refugees?
Refugees are here. Policies and politics are one thing. Debate is healthy. But the questions of statecraft were never meant to be the church’s main focus. As for main focus, think about the refugees themselves.
Just imagine them coming all the way here, having the freedom to really explore and meet a Christian for the first time. What an opportunity! But the reality that haunts me the most is that Muslim refugees are dying in America without ever meeting a Christian witness. That to me is just unacceptable. After all, God is helping us out; he’s giving us a hand. I believe he’s helping us to complete the Great Commission by bringing us some of the most difficult-to-reach people on the planet. We were having a hard time reaching them over there. So it’s as if God says, “Don’t worry; I’ll bring them to you.”
Perhaps we need to be reminded of our story.
The New Testament says that we are exiles. We are the foreigners and aliens on the earth. We’re sojourners. I Peter 2:11 says, “Dear friends, I urge you, as foreigners and exiles, to abstain from sinful desires.” Hebrews 11:13-14 speaks of God’s faithful ones who admitted “that they were foreigners and strangers on earth,” who were “looking for a country of their own.”
What story are we telling ourselves about ourselves? The story we tell will affect how we treat foreigners in our midst. And how we treat the foreigners among us will determine the stories that refugees tell themselves.
I had a friend from Sudan who had been in America for three years, waiting for his wife to be able to come to America. He hadn’t seen his newborn baby who was now two years old. When his wife was finally able to come, we collected some furniture and other items for him. We loaded them into our vehicle and took him where he and his wife were going to stay.
When he got out of the vehicle, he told me, “When I was in Sudan and my children would get sick, or when children would get sick, we would take them to the doctor. If the medicine didn’t help, we would take them to the church.”
I said, “I didn’t know you guys had a church.”
He said, “Well, the church was from a neighboring tribe that were refugees in our area. The Christians would pray for our kids, and sometimes God would heal our kids. Now I’m in America and the church is helping me again.”
Refugees are building a narrative about who God is and who is church is based on their interactions with us.
Fifty or a hundred years from now, there will be history books written about our generation. We are living out a story that will be written down for future generations. Let’s not forget all the times when we have looked back over our own Christian history, like the crusades and Inquisition, and we’re like, “How did they miss it? How could we have gotten so far off from the heart of God?” Or we look at how we mixed politics and Christianity, where the king appointed the bishops, and the church was confused with the state. So often, we missed what God was calling us to be. Our purpose got muddled for multiple generations.
When air travel made the nations accessible, how did the church respond? When the internet and iPhones made communication easy, did the church make the most of the opportunity? When the nations were uprooted and brought to them, was the church more interested in politics or people?