The Value of Life and the Christian Imperative: A more thorough Christian response to the refugee crisis

Magnus Wennman / Aftonbladet / REX Shutterstock
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Which life is worth more: the American child playing happily in her home, or the Syrian child frantically clinging to the stranger who pulled her alone from a boat of refugees?

The Christian truth is that all humanity is made in God’s image and, therefore, of equal value. This truth is fundamentally at odds with the definition of humanity that says a life is more valuable because it is American. The Christian response to refugees is to welcome and serve and help.

Now, I am not arguing naively for flinging doors open and relaxing our safety standards in immigration. A nation’s government MUST seek the protection of its citizens. Romans 13 says that God instituted human government – in part – to punish wrongdoers (i.e. – those who commit acts of terror). That’s a Christian belief just as much as caring for the poor.

However, the church cannot maintain the same mindset as the national government. The church is not the government, and the government is not the church. The church does not seek the safety of its borders. The church does not work for self-preservation, but puts self as a secondary concern to the needs of others. This is the long history of the tradition of Jesus Christ.

Thus, the real question presented to us is this: how do we as Christians clearly stand for the spirit of Christ, displaying self-sacrifice instead of self-preservation, while at the same time honoring the role of government to protect its citizens?

Here are some of my thoughts:

We should call our nation to remember its responsibility to care for the helpless.

This has two parts, and both are necessary.
First, we must urge our nation to not let policy be driven entirely by radical self-preservationist tendencies. that are willing to sacrifice the refugee for our personal safety. If Christians (and other concerned groups) do not speak loudly on behalf of the refugee (and yes, the domestic homeless/needy also. see below) then it would be all too easy for us to find contentment in our safety while hundreds of thousands are homeless, defenseless, and in need. That being said:

Secondly, we must urge our government to immediately do whatever is necessary to both expand and strengthen our refugee immigration processes. What I mean here is that our refugee immigration processes must be examined immediately, so that gaps and inefficiencies are rectified, ensuring that those refugees who do arrive are – with all reasonable assurance – not seeking to do harm to the citizens of the United States. We should call our government to immediately begin acting to do whatever is necessary to ensure that refugees can be accepted in a way that does not endanger our safety.

Does this mean doubling immigration staff? Do it. Does it mean forming multiple international committees to help verify potential refugee immigrants? Do it. Does it mean increasing our labor and expense tenfold? If so, then so be it. This should be the Christian voice in this crisis.

Christians must be willing to leave our comfort to go serve refugees where they are

If it becomes evident that it is not possible to accept refugees with a significant degree of assurance that the safety of citizens won’t be compromised, then the Christian response should be to go where the refugees are to care for them. (Perhaps this is also true for the interim time in which immigration processes are being verified.) If we are going to say, “Pause the acceptance of refugees,” then we as Christians need to be ready to follow that up with, “and in the meantime I’ll go help care for them.”

The call to Christianity is not a call to comfort and self-preservation. The Christian call is one of radical self-sacrifice. Our religion is rooted in the ultimate act of self-denial: the eternal Lord Jesus Christ, God in the flesh, willingly giving himself up to be crucified and punished for us. We can’t wear the title Christian while refusing to imitate Christ.

Christians must be leaders in the concern and care for the poor and homeless already in our nation.

A number of people have brought this up, and it is a totally legitimate and fair response: why be so concerned for the refugee in need when we haven’t cared for the homeless veterans and needy in our own country? The indictment is fair, but the conclusion comes out upside down too often. Usually, this is said to argue that we shouldn’t care for refugees because we have people in our own country who are in need. Instead, the consistent value of all life means that if we are going to care for one group in need, we need to be ready to care for all groups in need, whether the homeless veteran in our country or the homeless refugee needing aid. It is inconsistent and unchristian to neglect either group.

Support those who work for peace on a global scale

This speaks for itself, I think. As Christians, we must pray for our world and ask God to bring peace. We must labor to bring peace, and support world leaders who work for peace. It shouldn’t need to be said, but it must be: Christians cannot revel in war. It is a grievous thing, and we should seek the end of it. The issue of peace and the issue of refugees are connected, and if we seek to truly rectify the problem, then we must recognize the need for peace on a global scale.


As Christians, we do not have the option of simply rejecting refugees, nor of naively ignoring the nation’s attempt to protect itself. We cannot afford simplistic suggestions that minimize the great risk and great cost of helping such a huge number of desperate refugees from a volatile area. We must be people of clear thinking and hard labor to do whatever is necessary, even at the cost of our comfort. We must stand clearly as a set-apart people, not acting out of a spirit of self-preservation, but acting in the Spirit of Christ and self-sacrifice. And we must be the voice for the poor and helpless in a society that tends toward radical self-preservation as a fundamental and non-negotiable commitment.

We are Christians, and we labor to establish the Kingdom of peace by displaying the loving sacrifice of the Prince of Peace. There is no clearer Christian opportunity that what is before us at this moment.


Human Sacrifice and Witchdoctors

This morning I’m remembering a testimony of God’s power from a trip to Nepal last year:

May 13, 2013
By Daniel Lowry 

A small group of men were sitting before me, taking a break from our theological training session. To pass a few moments, I asked what I thought was a light-hearted question: have you seen God do anything wonderful in your church lately? I was not prepared for the story I was about to hear.

“We discovered that there was a temple near our church that every so often would do human sacrifices. When I found out I was shocked and burdened in my heart,” the brother said. It was as though the air was sucked out of the room. Human sacrifice to a pagan idol. A spark of life swallowed up in the worship of demons. We were all suddenly burdened in our hearts.

But the story took a turn of cosmic beauty. “We began praying and praying, sometimes doing the ‘Jericho prayer walking’ around the temple itself…Now, the two priests of this temple have become Christians, and they are telling people that they were wrong, and they should not do those things anymore.” Without an ounce of shame, I gladly share that I shed tears as this brother told his story. Through the ministry of this church, two men turned away from human sacrifice to the one Man who was sacrificed on our behalf – Jesus Christ. The gospel is the *power* of God unto salvation! 

Before I could even catch my breath from the first story, the brother continued with the next: “God has done many miracles through us in the church – people have been healed. There is also a witch doctor near our church that people will give money to in order to be healed from their sicknesses. Sometimes, the witch doctor will give their money back, saying ‘I cannot heal you. Go to this church of Jesus.’” 

The power of Jesus Christ is so evident among this church that a witch doctor sees and notices. He recognizes that the power present among the people of Jesus is greater than his own power. 

God’s power through the gospel is enough to save priests of human sacrifice. God’s power through his people is greater than the demon power of witch doctors. Praise his Name!


We Don’t Leave Darkness by Focusing on Light

“This is the message we have heard from Jesus Christ and declare to you: God is light; in Him there is no darkness at all. If we claim to have fellowship with Him yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live by the truth. But if we walk in the light, as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, His Son, purifies us from all sin.”
1 John 1:5-7

Choosing to walk in the light.

On first glance, it seems such a simple choice; the very definition of a black-and-white issue. When it comes to living out this principle…well, we all know that it becomes a bit more challenging.

So, I just have a simple question for you: are you, at this moment, choosing to allow sin to remain in your heart and mind and life?

That, my friend, is what is meant by “walking in darkness”. And the truth preached to us by the apostle John and Jesus Himself is this: when we set out attention and emotions on darkness, we will not find God. He does not dwell there. His presence is entirely in the light, and it is only when we set our attention and emotions on Him that we come out of darkness.

Now, that’s a significant thought: we do not come out of darkness by focusing on light. You do not leave anger by focusing on forgiveness. You do not leave lust by focusing on chastity and marital faithfulness. You do not leave greed by focusing on contentment. Perhaps that will work for a moment, but it is infinitely less powerful than what God intends us to do.

We leave darkness and sin not by focusing on and reaching for the morally good action opposite our sin, but by focusing on and reaching for Jesus Himself. Our sinful hearts can disdain forgiveness when anger is powerful enough. In my indignation, I can look at forgiveness and scoff, saying to myself “My indignation is more significant and important and valuable than forgiveness.”

But friend, you can NEVER truly look at Jesus and think that your darkness is more significant and important and valuable. To recall the life of Jesus on earth, filled with compassion and love and power and forgiveness in the face of such cosmic rejection, it becomes impossible to hold on to my own anger at some paltry and transient offense. To hold the knowledge that Jesus Christ the crucified One is now glorified in all power and standing at the heavenly throne in the midst of the tumult of angelic praise – yes, this makes it impossible for me to desire whatever darkness seems satisfying at the moment.

Do not walk in darkness, brothers and sisters.

But do not focus on the light in order to try to walk in it. Focus your attention and emotions on Jesus Christ, and you will find yourself in the light.


After Grief Comes Healing

green pasturesWhat Christian has not experienced the desperate suffocation of unanswered prayer? The puritans called it “the dark night of the soul,” when it seems as though there is an impenetrable barrier between ourselves and the God to whom we cry.

Hope for those times comes in two of the most striking and famous Psalms in the entire book: Psalms 22 and 23. The 23rd Psalm is one of the more famous texts of scripture in the Bible, and Jesus quotes the 22nd Psalm in the darkest hour of history as God’s wrath falls upon Him. Taken separately, they are invaluable. But what grips me this morning is the fact that they come together, one right after the other.

Psalm 22 begins with that haunting question that we hear echoing from the cross:

“My God, my God! Why have you forsaken me?!
Why are you so far from saving me, so far from my groaning? 
O my God, I cry out by day, but you do not answer…”

What an unbearable grief it is when our pleading cries go unanswered by the Lord! This is especially true because our crying out in this way often comes when we are laden with anguish from other heavy circumstances, and the silence from on high is like gasping for air and finding none. Again, what Christian hasn’t experienced this? The Psalmist did. Our Lord Jesus did. We also do.

But look to the very next Psalm? The 22nd – that height of grief and anguish that rip a soul to gasping shreds – melts into the 23rd.

“The LORD is my Shepherd, I shall not be in want.
He makes me lie down in green pastures; He leads me to quiet waters;
He restores my soul.”

From utter grief, to complete peace. This is the habit of our Shepherd. We will certainly experience the anguish of silence. We will certainly walk through the valley of the shadow of death. But after the suffocating silence from on high comes the healing flow of quiet waters. After the darkness of the valley of the shadow comes the warmth and safety of green pastures. It is a certainty!

Do not cease praying, even if His silence brings more anguish! Trust that He is even now leading you to quiet waters.

Do not cease clinging to Him, even if the darkness is so deep that you cannot see Him. Trust that He is even now leading you toward restful healing in green pastures.

Trust Him! At all times, trust Him! Trust Him when the anguish is at it’s height. Trust Him when the darkness is deepest. He will answer. He will lead you through. He is good.

God does not give rest. God is rest.

presence of Christ
Psalm 62 has been one of the most powerful scriptures in my life and faith.

“My soul finds rest in God alone,” says verse 1. Or in another rendering, “For God alone my soul is still.”

It continues:

Yes, my soul, find rest in God; my hope comes from him.
Truly he is my rock and my salvation; he is my fortress, I will not be shaken.
My salvation and my honor depend on God ;he is my mighty rock, my refuge.
Trust in him at all times, you people; pour out your hearts to him, for God is our refuge.

In all the moments of grief and distress and pain, when my soul finds no rest and I have little hope, my soul is silenced and stilled in the presence of God. There I find rest. The Lord Jesus confirms this in reiterating the promise: “Come to me all you who are weary and heavy laden, and I will give you rest, rest for your souls.”

And another scripture explains, for me, the how of that rest. How does God give rest to weary, restless, grieving souls? Well, that’s a natural question to ask, but isn’t quite the right question.

God does not give rest. God IS rest.

In Revelation 20, there is a small sentence that always provokes my wonder and amazement. It’s in verse 11, as John describes seeing the exalted Christ enthroned:

Then I saw a great white throne and Him who was seated on it.
Earth and Sky fled away from His presence, and no place was found for them.

What a staggering statement of of the fullness of God’s presence! He is the ultimate reality, and all else is shifted aside because of the absolute perfection of His being. Like floodwaters gathering against a dam and then bursting out, sweeping everything away by the sheer weight of the waters piled up behind, Jesus enthroned in glory fills the moment such that the weight of His being sweeps everything else away.

So how is it that my soul finds rest in Him? It is precisely this: when Christ dwells in me and I intentionally draw into His presence, there is room for only Him! “The heavens, even the highest heaven cannot contain you, oh God!” (1 kings 8:27) The heavens cannot contain the fullness of God, yet He dwells in our hearts by His spirit! He fills every space, everything else flees away from His presence and there is no room for anything else, and yet still He spills out in rivers of living water that fill the whole of creation.

What space for sin, idolatry, grief, or pain is left? None! He draws near, and there is no room for anything else. His being, resplendent with glory, rushing with eternal tides of every grace, fills. The very fabric of creation unravels and blows away like shredded rags in a strong wind when He comes near.

He does not give us rest, as if it were a packageable commodity. He Himself is our rest as He fills every space in us with the unfathomable fullness of His being.

And indeed, He is my rest, and what can shake me when my God makes the earth and sky flee by His coming?

Find rest in God’s presence.

When God Tests Your Faith



God will certainly test our faith. That is a biblical promise. You can count on it just as surely as God’s promise to save us. He will save us AND He will test us. It’s important that we realize the truth about God’s testing. Too often we miss the point entirely and end up twisted around and misunderstanding God and ourselves.

Here’s the main truth: when God tests your faith, He is not revealing your own strength to you; rather, He is training you to rest in His strength.

Too often we have the mindset that we make it through by the strength of our own faith…as if faith were focused on us! That is the very opposite of faith. Faith in Jesus means recognizing that we do not have the strength necessary to make it through the trial. To say that WE are strong enough to make it through is to deny that we need HIM.

Trials and tests of faith are meant by God to teach us that we are NOT strong enough. When God tests our faith, His intention is to make us more and more aware of our own weakness, and teach us to cry out to Him for deliverance. THAT is faith: to lift the bruised and exhausted hands of the soul clenched in grief up to God and say “Only you can save me! My help comes from you! You are my deliverer and my refuge! If you do not bring me through, I will certainly be lost.”

Friend, when you find your faith being tested, do not believe the lie that you are strong enough. The trial is not intended to reveal your own strength to you. God is training you to understand your own weakness and cry out to Him for His strength. Faith is relying on the strength of the Lord, not your own strength.

Trust Him! More than you trust your own strength, trust His!

Psalm 121

A song of ascents.

1I lift up my eyes to the mountains—
where does my help come from?
2My help comes from the Lord,
the Maker of heaven and earth.
3He will not let your foot slip—
he who watches over you will not slumber;
4indeed, he who watches over Israel
will neither slumber nor sleep.
5The Lord watches over you—
the Lord is your shade at your right hand;
6the sun will not harm you by day,
nor the moon by night.
7The Lord will keep you from all harm—
he will watch over your life;
8the Lord will watch over your coming and going
both now and forevermore.

God Will Give You Pain


Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as his children. For what children are not disciplined by their father? God disciplines us for our good, in order that we may share in his holiness. No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.

Hebrews 12:7, 10-11

As a loving Father, God is not content to let us remain where we are, or go without  His direction. What earthly father would we call loving who never directed his child through discipline? Sadly, our culture has done much of precisely that, and this discipline-less “love” encourages wandering and dabbling in death.

But God is no such Father: He disciplines the ones He loves, and He does so for our good.

Now, here’s the thought this morning:God will certainly discipline His children. And that discipline will surely be painful (“No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful.”). Thus, we can conclude that  by becoming a child of God we are ensuring that we will experience pain from the Father’s hand.

Let me say that again, because it is so contrary to our typical expectations of how God lives in relationship with us: God will certainly do things that will hurt you. He will do so intentionally. He will do so often. He will do so lovingly. In love, God will do what hurts us.

Why? In order to produce good things in us; in order that we might share in the deep nourishing holiness that is His; in order that we may learn peace as abiding and abundant as a river.

I think about the Apostle Paul, who had learned the secret to being at peace no matter the circumstance: whether well fed or hungry, in plenty or in want, in danger or safety. Friend, this means that Paul had to be put in those circumstances enough times to learn to have peace in them! God put Paul in danger until Paul learned contentment in danger. God made Paul hungry until Paul learned to be at peace without a full belly. And then, when Paul had learned peace, danger and hunger did not diminish it.

You see, in God’s great mercy, He attacks those things in which we find peace apart from Himself. Those things on which we lay our hopes and satisfaction that are outside Him, He will – in mercy – utterly destroy. He is merciless in reducing them to rubble in order that we might find peace in the only true and unchanging source: Himself! That is mercy! That is abundant grace!

Every other source of peace and contentment is like a stream that seems cool and satisfying to drink from and bathe in, but turns out to be only a muddy and bitter trickle which dries up. But the streams of living water flowing from the fountain of life beneath the throne of God Himself? Clear, bright, never ending or abating, glorious, and satisfying!

If you are not at peace, then praise the one who has taken your peace in muddy waters from you. Know that it is His call to drink from a brighter stream. If you are in pain, then praise the one who has taken your support and let you fall. Know that it is His call to seat yourself on the immovable mountain range of His glorious person. If you find your heart aching and frantic, then praise the one who has reduced your hopes to rubble. Know that it is His call to ground your hope on that which will stand forever: the Lord Jesus Christ in glory.

He disciplines us for our good. He trains us to find peace in Him alone. He removes all lesser supports, that we may stand on Him, and share in His unchanging goodness.

My hope is built on nothing less than Jesus’ blood and righteousness.

I dare not trust the sweetest frame of mind, but wholly lean on Jesus’ name.

On Christ the solid rock I stand! All other ground is sinking sand!

Endure hardship as discipline. God is treating you as His children.