All of life is theology.
What do I believe about God? What do I believe about people? What do I believe about how God interacts with this world, his creation? My beliefs about who God is and how he interacts with people profoundly shape the way I see the world. That theology informs everything about how we humans, image bearers of God, are called to move in this world.
I believe God loves his creation—his fallen, broken, marred and often evil creation. I believe that through Jesus, God paid the ultimate price of death to restore this creation to himself. I believe that God calls people to himself, naming those who trust in his name as his beloved sons and daughters. I believe that, if you are his child, then you are an ambassador of God, a representative of the Creator, to this crazy, unjust, greedy, power-hungry world. If you are a child of God, it is your responsibility to display the difficult, sacrificial, life-altering and life-changing love of God to to others. This includes not just our friends, but especially our enemies. (Mt. 5:43-48)
Perhaps you know where I’m going with this. Yes, I’m talking about refugees. I’m talking about Trump’s recent order to: halt for 120 days the entry of all refugees; to totally stop Syrian refugee resettlement until further notice; and his ban on citizens of seven Muslim-majority countries from entering the US on any type of visa. (Thanks The Atlantic for the 411 on what the order does and doesn’t do.)
If you know me, you know I’ve made some unusual choices with my life. For most of my life since college, I’ve lived overseas. I’ve spent my life sharing the Gospel with those who don’t yet know Jesus and discipling those who do. I don’t think that every single Christian is called to move overseas and do this. But I do believe that every single Christian is called to spend your life on the mission of making God’s name great among the nations. That means that whether you go or whether you stay right where you are, sacrificially working to see God known and loved in places where he is not is not optional. I’ve been so grateful to be the recipient of the radical and self-sacrificial generosity of so many who haven’t gone, but have given to the point of pain to allow me to do so. I’m so grateful for that partnership, and I’ve learned so much from the Christ-exalting generosity of others.
And guess what, America? Right now the nations have come to us. The reality of the current “wars and rumors of war” means a global scattering is currently underway. The question we face is not whether it will impact us, but how we will respond to the opportunities this dispersion presents.
It’s hard for me to be back in America, truth be told. I loved my life overseas, and I miss many, many people who were dear to me beyond words. But for this time and this season, God has me living on the outskirts of Los Angeles in the immigrant suburb of Alhambra, Ca. There were hard moments in my time overseas. I’ve had visa problems, I’ve had a knock on the door in the middle of the night, I’ve been scared for myself and for my friends. I’m a fraidy-cat by nature, as much of a natural worrywart as anyone I know, and my fearful tendencies have been exposed and amplified time and time again. Usually the fears were nothing but my own ephemeral imagination. Sometimes they were based in reality. But despite all that, despite my fears and despite the times my fears were realized, working with people who are radically different from me is a privilege. Along with being married to my husband and parenting my two children, working among the nations is the greatest joy and privilege of my life.
I’m not going to get into what the rules for vetting refugees and immigrants are. According to my understanding and the experience of people I trust, the process is thorough, and the process works. I’m not going to deal with the role of government policy in national security. (If you’re interested, please read this. I found it quite wise.)
But I’ll say this, crazy and controversial though it may be. If you believe that God deserves to be worshiped by people of all tongues, by people of all skin colors, by people of all cultures, then you should hope and pray and work to do everything you can to allow those people here. I don’t personally think there’s much chance that a refugee to America will perpetrate terror. (The process is extensive and the vetting is thorough. This is America, shielded by two oceans, not Germany, which refugees can reach more easily. Have I even mentioned this?: those refugees, by the way, are desperate, hurting people who are longing for a safe place to raise their children.)
But here’s the really crazy thing that I believe with all my being: in God’s upside-down kingdom, victory comes through death. That might be death to dreams of success or money or stability, or it might be through actual physical death. God’s glory is worth death: my own or even that of my family.
Those are difficult words. But I believe them with everything in me. In North Korea, Christians are asked to deny their faith. If they refuse, it can mean the most dire consequences, not only for themselves, but for their families. I recently re-read Hudson Taylor’s Spiritual Secret. Taylor’s wife and four of his children died as the price of his work in China.
Is Jesus worth it? Is the glory of His name worth this steep a price? I believe, I wager my life, on the fact that he is.
So no, I don’t lose sleep over a refugee killing me in my bed. But Christians—every Christian, not just crazy ones who move overseas—ought to be willing to give up their life for the sake of the name of Jesus. In America, we have been shielded from the persecution and difficulty and self-denial that Jesus himself tells us is the cost for following him. (“Then Jesus told his disciples, ‘If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.’” Mt. 16:24-25) This isn’t a special price for super-Christians. This is the price that every believer should expect and be willing to pay.
Remember how I mentioned Germany just above, where refugees are pouring in, not trickling? Refugees from Syria and Iraq and all over the torched landscape of the Middle East are coming to Germany and there, in the churches where the fires of the Reformation were first lit, they are finding that Jesus IS the Son of God. And yes, I’ll agree with you that terrorists are likely hiding among the refugees of Europe. But God is merciful, severe though that mercy may be. And in this case I believe his mercy is being extended through allowing people, refugees, to find him, the Pearl of great price—although they lose lands, home, and father and mother to do so.
May Christians in America open the door to welcome them with gladness.
This is my foreign daughter reading with and being loved well by her classmates during our time overseas. Just a little levity and a picture of how much of a difference kindness can make in the day-to-day life of someone who’s new to a country/culture. 🙂