Today, Governor John Kasich added Ohio to the list of several other states that are refusing to accept even one refugee from the war torn areas of Syria and other nations. This announcement is purely political and is entirely lacking in common sense and human compassion.
Judging by the Facebook posts I’ve been reading for two days, I’ve just offended many of my friends.
I don’t care.
Why? Because if you are a follower of Jesus Christ, you are completely ignoring nearly every instruction that Jesus ever gave.
Let me explain.
It is obviously apparent that terrorists have infiltrated the flood of refugees landing in Europe and elsewhere. But while estimates of how many terrorists might be among them range from a few to as many as 15 percent, most estimates go no higher than 7 percent. Still, considering that there are hundreds of thousands of refugees, 7 percent is a lot. Allowing 10,000 refugees into the United States could mean admitting 700 terrorists.
That is unacceptable.
So why do I think that Governor Kasich and a whole host of other politicians have it wrong?
Because closing the doors on legal immigrants, even in the face of this enormous threat, conveniently ignores too much human pain and suffering. Before I get around to Jesus, let’s first take a look at who these refugees are and why they are fleeing to other countries.
The civil war in Syria isn’t just about one group of radicals who are fighting against the government. We think that way because we think of the Confederate States fighting against the Union, but that example is just wrong. In Syria, there are literally dozens of armed factions that are warring, not only with Syria’s government, but against one another. And so thinking that this is like the Rebs against the Yankees doesn’t really do it justice. Instead, imagine that every church that you passed this week represented the headquarters of a different armed group. Imagine that, in your community, the Baptists are fighting the Lutherans, the Catholics are killing Pentecostals, and the Republicans are at war with Democrats. Not only is your neighborhood a war zone, every week or two, another group tries to capture it from the group that captured it the last time. Some towns have been blown up and shot up multiple times, churches have been burned, women raped, and entire towns lined up in the streets and murdered.
This is daily life in much of Syria.
And so, not surprisingly, a lot of people, both Christian and Muslim, have left their homes, their families, and all that they own, to literally walk across several entire countries in hope of finding something better.
Are there “bad guys” mixed in with the “regular” refugees? Yes.
But those of us who claim to follow Jesus are called to see the world in a different way. Not through the lens of Democrat or Republican, but through the lens of the Gospel message of Jesus Christ.
If we look at what Jesus taught, we won’t find words like revenge, retaliation, or retribution. We won’t find instructions to hate our neighbor or to fear the foreigners. Instead, what we find are instructions to be merciful, compassionate, loving, and helpful. Our mission is to rescue the lost, heal the sick, clothe the naked, and help others find hope and a future so that they too might hear the message of the Prince of Peace.
We have every right to be concerned about the possibility of allowing hundreds of jihadi terrorists into our country, but that fear cannot allow us to slam the door on the 93 percent who are only looking for a place to live that won’t get blown up next week.
It is convenient and easy for politicians to preach from a pulpit of fear and xenophobia. But as Christians, we are not called to follow the teachings of John Kasich or any other politician. We are called to follow the teachings of Jesus.
Jesus doesn’t expect us to be stupid or act foolishly.
We remember that Jesus teaches love, mercy, and compassion, but he also said,
“I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves.” (Matthew 10:16 NIV)
We are called to be merciful, but to be smart about how we do it.
Governor Kasich and other politicians are looking for easy, and popular, solutions but in doing so they sell Ohio, and the people of the United States short.
We are smarter than they give us credit for.
We are more than capable of sorting through the refugees and discerning which ones can be allowed in safely.
It won’t be easy.
But we can do it.
And it’s the right thing to do.