Our TV screens have been deluged this last week with graphic reports and heartbreaking images of families attempting make European countries their home whilst leaving their homelands which are often places of conflict. This has left many trying to answer hard questions of how best to respond from a Christian perspective. Whilst attempting to avoid some of the emotional sensationalism that pervades much of the media we attempt to offer some observations:
- The Bible is absolutely clear that it is every Christian’s responsibility to welcome the homeless, poor and destitute. However, almost every instance where Jesus teaches this, it is to have a personal practical application – what we usually see is people telling others what they should do instead! Jesus would have welcomed any oppressed or distressed person and provided practical help – so should we. However, Jesus did not petition the government of the day on what they should do – his teaching and application was on an individual level, not a national level.
- Many Bible passages cited on this issue are often grossly misused. The most obvious example is the well-known passage in Matthew 25:31-46. Throughout this passage, Jesus refers to His ‘brethren’ and in context, his ‘brethren’ must refer to the Jewish people. We accept there is a wider application, but suspect those that use this passage may not extend its use to the only group of people Jesus was referring to – namely the Jews!
- There have been many defiantly applying pressure on the UK government to open up borders – we agree with this! However, anyone who takes the moral high-ground on this, but is not willing to indefinitely house refugees in their own homes, streets and land are clearly being hypocritical. Why tell others to do something they would not be willing to do themselves?! If we are open our borders, these refugees have to go somewhere – they will be someone’s new neighbours. Where should they go? It’s common to hear grand solutions to problems like these so long as the person concerned is not affected!
- One particular photo of the lifeless body of a young boy seems to have been pivotal in swaying public perception. In some ways, this displays how worryingly vulnerable we are to media manipulation – thousands have lost their lives in recent months and years in exactly the same way, whether the victims are from North Africa or the Middle East – why do no photos appear of them? Why does it need a photo to jolt a nation into action when this has been happening for so long? These are strange times…
- We suspect some ‘refugees’ may not be fleeing dire situations and may even be IS insurgents using this as an opportunity to gain entry to well-meaning (but naive) European countries whom they intend to attack. Time will tell, but we would not be surprised if a future bombing/atrocity in a European city proved to be the work of a ‘migrant’ fleeing ‘persecution’. Having said this, it is virtually impossible to do anything about this without closing borders altogether.
- What is very notable is the complete absence of many Islamic countries in helping out in this crisis – why aren’t places like Saudi Arabia, etc. willing to help their Muslim brothers and sisters in their time of need?
- One positive effect of accepting an influx of refugees is that many may be saved Christian’s and this could help spread the gospel in the barren spiritual environment of the UK. We believe one of the reasons God has spared the UK from the judgment it deserves is a fairly generous immigration policy that has resulted in many believing families finding sanctuary and starting life in the UK.
- We also see prophetic significance in this crisis. In recent weeks Iran has received a huge boost from Western nations that eases the way to nuclear weapons. Syria is in a complete mess and Iran will most certainly look to exploit the situation with weapons as it does in Lebanon. As this process continues, all eyes should be on Israel as they will naturally be the subject of a spectacular attack at some point in the future. Could the stage be set for a preemptive attack that could fulfil Isaiah 17 or political alliances that mirror Ezekiel 38/39? We should look with interest.
In summary, it is almost impossible to keep up with everything as end time events continue to spiral towards the return of the King. As with any situation, we have a duty to do all possible to show the grace and compassion that Christ has shown us and that He demonstrated during His earthly ministry. This should start with an honest look at our own lives and should lead to action on a personal level. Beware of those who lecture the government and others on what should be done but do nothing themselves to alleviate the suffering of those on their own doorsteps. There is so much suffering of all kinds going on right now outside our own front doors – let the Holy Spirit guide on the best response. When our TV screens are filled with desperate news, the causes are often very complex where the best solutions require sober and wise heads. That is not to say nothing can be done but often the most effective way we can help make the world a better place is to start with those around us who need practical help. If those fleeing conflicts arrive in our neighbourhoods, we must warmly and generously welcome them – we can’t hope to powerfully share the good news of Jesus Christ without treating them as Jesus would.
One thing we can be quite sure of is that there will be some making highly sacrificial contributions to the plight of these refugees – we will never find out about them though as those who genuinely help will do so far from the prying eyes of the media and knee-jerk politics. God sees everything and richly rewards those who are of His Kingdom and live out the command to ‘love thy neighbour’.
Above all, pray hard, follow the lead of the Spirit and keep looking up – the Lord will be returning soon!
And when these things begin to come to pass, then look up, and lift up your heads; for your redemption draweth nigh. (Luke 21:28)