The Promises of God We Don’t Want

We love to claim God’s promises in scripture — at least some of them. Some we prefer not to think about.

Some promises — we might call them “consequences” — are promises that come as the result of our bad choices.

This topic comes to mind because of Friday’s Executive Order by the President stopping the refugee program for 120 days and severely crippling it thereafter.

Never mind that America is built on immigration; or that most economists say immigration is good for our economy; or that refugees have hadfence-978138_1280 little to do with domestic terrorism. It’s true that three Americans have been killed by refugee terrorists — they were from Cuba back in the 1970s, before the Refugee Act of 1980 created systematic entry procedures. Targeting refugees, which the State Department already describes as the “most highly scrutinized” and “most vigorously vetted” path to entering the US, is like fixing a dripping faucet while a broken pipe pours gallons of water into your kitchen.

But let’s assume everything in that last paragraph is wrong. If Christians are going to claim the Bible as the ultimate authority on how we are to live our lives, none of that is as important as the teachings of scripture.

What does the Bible teach about immigration and refugees in particular? A 2015 Lifeway Research survey determined that only 12% of Evangelical Christians consider scripture to be the primary influence on their view of immigration.

I can make a Biblical case for protecting our country and our families. But that isn’t a strong theme in scripture. It’s a stronger theme that God will defend those who are committed to His purposes. One of the strongest of those purposes is care for the most vulnerable (widows, orphans, homeless, and foreigners) and especially those who are victims of injustice — e.g. refugees.

In case this isn’t clear, refugees are those who have left their home country because of “a credible fear of persecution based on race, religion, political opinion, national origin, or social group.” You’re not a refugee because you want to find a better place to make a living, or because there was an earthquake in your home country. You are a refugee because of a credible fear of injustice.

Here are just a few of the hundreds of verses that apply to refugees:

Deut 10:19 Love them
Deut 14:28-29 Use tithes to bless them
Deut 31:11-12 Assemble with them to listen to God’s Word
Deut 16:11 Celebrate God’s blessings with them
Deut 24:19-20 Take care of their physical needs
Deut 27:19 Cursed is he who distorts the justice due them
Eze 22:29-31 God’s wrath on those who wrong them
Zech 7:10-13 God won’t listen to those who oppress them
Mal 3:5 God’s swift judgment against those who turn them aside
Isa 58 promises God’s blessing when we stop seeking our own pleasure to bring them into our own homes and care for them.

So we get to choose — individually and as a nation — which promises of God we want to experience.

God is faithful to deliver on His promises.  Like it or not.

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Why I Work With Refugees

I recently had the privilege of sharing with a group about why I volunteer with World Relief’s refugee resettlement program. Here’s (approximately) what I said:

In two years of volunteering with World Relief I’ve built a long list of stories I could tell.

Stories about the joys and successes, about being used by God; but also about the challenges, heartaches, and frustration that come with investing in people who have given up everything to come to a place where they know practically no one, have almost nothing, and even if they speak the language, they don’t understand this strange culture they’re in.

There’s the 24 year old Iranian who was sitting on my couch one Christmas morning after being in the US for less than two months. The Orange County Register wanted to do a story on a refugee’s first Christmas, so our family was hosting not only our first refugee, but our first newspaper reporter and photographer as well. The reporter asked about his favorite memory since coming to the US. His answer: helping me put up the Christmas lights on the front of our house. Want to know how to help a refugee?  Let them help you. Being useful increases dignity.

I get choked up as I remember the 52 year old Sudanese man who broke down crying as he climbed out from behind the wheel of my car and stared at the paper in his hand. It said that he’d just passed his driver’s license test. The first driver’s license in his life. So how do you help a refugee? You help them accomplish their dreams and ambitions.

If I had time, I would take you to Isaiah 58 and describe what led me to get involved to begin with. But instead, let me leave you with just one verse, 1 John 3:17:  “If any man has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart to him, how does God’s love abide in him?”

If any man — that’s me;
has the world’s goods — that’s me;
sees his brother in need — that’s me;
yet closes his heart to him — Hmmm…seems like I have a choice here.

But actually, this verse isn’t about a choice, it’s rhetorically describing the evidence of what is or isn’t in me.

My helping refugees isn’t about “what’s in it for me”, it’s about “what’s in me for them”.  I have a Savior who made the greatest sacrifice in human history because He loves me. And there are over 7 billion other people in the world today that He loves just as much.

With His love in me, I have to ask myself what is in my life that I’m not willing to sacrifice — to put at risk — to demonstrate Christ’s love to those in need.  I don’t have a choice about whether to do it; I can only choose how to do it. Want to help a refugee?  Be the love of Jesus to them. 

That’s why I volunteer with World Relief.