Those that know me well know that I tend to avoid political discussions.  I just don’t enjoy them all that much because people tend to get too passionate about them, and rarely is it a fruitful discussion.  There are some people with whom I can have these conversations, but I rarely engage in them because it is too easy to overlook a person’s heart and label them incorrectly, especially when it comes to online political discussions.

Today, there has been a lot of reaction to the events in Paris, Beirut and the response against those who perpetrated these atrocities.  One of those responses has been, in my view, a very calloused, fearful response to refugees who are trying to flee these actions in their own backyard.  The fearful response has been to say that we need to not allow any of these refugees into the United States because there is the potential that some like-minded people may also be coming who would wish to cause harm to Americans in attacks similar to what happened in Paris and Beirut.

As a pastor, I try to look through the world with a biblical worldview.  To tell you the truth, as I read about people who say we need to turn away all of the refugees, there is something within me that isn’t sitting well.  I understand the risk, but I also understand our calling to help those in need, to not make decisions based on fear.  Is it possible that with 45,000 refugees there will be some who come with ill-intentions?  Of course it is possible; in fact, it is likely.  I’m not ignorant of that fact.  I’m also not ignorant of the fact that there are probably already people living in this country who also have ill-intentions… who aren’t refugees.  But this situation reminds me of a story found in Genesis.

[22] So the men turned from there and went toward Sodom, but Abraham still stood before the LORD. [23] Then Abraham drew near and said, “Will you indeed sweep away the righteous with the wicked? [24] Suppose there are fifty righteous within the city. Will you then sweep away the place and not spare it for the fifty righteous who are in it? [25] Far be it from you to do such a thing, to put the righteous to death with the wicked, so that the righteous fare as the wicked! Far be that from you! Shall not the Judge of all the earth do what is just?”

[26] And the LORD said, “If I find at Sodom fifty righteous in the city, I will spare the whole place for their sake.” [27] Abraham answered and said, “Behold, I have undertaken to speak to the Lord, I who am but dust and ashes. [28] Suppose five of the fifty righteous are lacking. Will you destroy the whole city for lack of five?” And he said, “I will not destroy it if I find forty-five there.” [29]

Again he spoke to him and said, “Suppose forty are found there.” He answered, “For the sake of forty I will not do it.” [30] Then he said, “Oh let not the Lord be angry, and I will speak. Suppose thirty are found there.” He answered, “I will not do it, if I find thirty there.” [31] He said, “Behold, I have undertaken to speak to the Lord. Suppose twenty are found there.” He answered, “For the sake of twenty I will not destroy it.” [32] Then he said, “Oh let not the Lord be angry, and I will speak again but this once. Suppose ten are found there.” He answered, “For the sake of ten I will not destroy it.” (Genesis 18:22-32 ESV)

Now, as you may know, ultimately, this story doesn’t end well for the people of Sodom and Gomorrah.  But that doesn’t change the fact that for the righteous few, God was willing to spare the wicked many.

Here we are, with an opportunity to help 45,000 people who are fleeing their homeland because they face persecution, war and death on a regular basis.  Given the choice, I’m willing to say that every single one of them would rather stay home and live in peace than start over in a new country, where they know not everybody is going to be welcoming, or even decent, to them.  But for the sake of 100 wicked, we are willing to allow the righteous to suffer.  That seems a little backwards to me.

I’m also reminded of Jesus’ words in Matthew 25:

[31] “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne. [32] Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. [33] And he will place the sheep on his right, but the goats on the left. [34] Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. [35] For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, [36] I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’

[37] Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? [38] And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? [39] And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’

[40] And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’

[41] “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. [42] For I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, [43] I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not clothe me, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.’

[44] Then they also will answer, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to you?’ [45] Then he will answer them, saying, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.’ [46] And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.” (Matthew 25:31-46 ESV)

Now, one last story, and I’ll wrap up…

This summer, after Hannah was born and subsequently spent the first 117 days of her precious life in the NICU, the Wednesday night Bible study group thought it would be beneficial to go on a hiatus.  Shortly after we brought her home, I received a call from one of the members who wanted to restart the Wednesday night study, and was willing to lead it.  As a pastor, this is a dream situation.  When the laity take ownership and leadership of a ministry, you know that things are going well.  So, of course, I agreed.  Not only does it allow somebody else to grow and lead, it frees up some of my time to focus on starting a couple of new things.

Through a series of events this week, this gentleman is unable to lead this week, and so I have offered to fill in for him.  As I turned to the Upper Room for this coming Wednesday, once again, I am reminded of how God often speaks to us long before we know we need to hear it.

I want to share with you the devotional for this coming Wednesday (November 18th) written by Teresa Cannaday in The Upper Room devotional guide.

Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it – Hebrews 13:2 (NIV)

After a very long flight, I emerged from the Paris metro car feeling weary.  I struggled with the two pieces of luggage I had brought with me.  An escalator must be nearby, I thought.  But as I turned the corner, I sighed and dropped my bags.  The escalator was out of service.  Rush hour was just beginning and hundreds of Parisians passed me by, hurrying  to their destinations, never even noticing, or perhaps irritated, that I had stopped in their path.   Suddenly I felt someone reaching not to steal my bag but to carry it for me, I grabbed the other bag and together we made the trek.

My good Samaritan was a young Muslim woman wearing a hijab.  When we reached the tree-lined avenue outside the metro station, she left my bag and proceeded on her way.  All I could do was yell, “Shukran!” the Arabic word for “thank you.”

This woman saw my need and met it.  Her actions reminded me that no matter who we are, where we come from, or the basis of our faith, in the end we are all God’s children.  Her kindness inspired me to show hospitality to friends and strangers alike.

Prayer: Dear God, help us to exercise our privilege of service to meet the needs of all your children.  Amen.

This is not a political post.  It is a biblical one.  If we are to be followers of Jesus, then even the difficult paths are not traveled alone.  Our call is to be a light in the darkness.  To give witness to our faith.  And to do that, it has to be more than words of fear, but actions of obedience.