5 minute read
As I write this, I have just read a story about a group of young Syrian women who had come over on a scholarship program who were now applying for refugee status and asylum to remain in Canada. I was steeling myself for the vitriol in the comments section when I remembered that the CBC doesn't have comments on news stories. You can imagine, though, what those comments might look like. The anonymity of the Internet, plus controversial issues don't usually lead to what we call productive conversation.
But I don't want to talk about that. I don't want to talk about politics, refugees, and how the government ought to treat these claimants. What I do want to talk about is the church. I have written before on how Christians ought to react to refugees, specifically Syrian, and what we should be doing to break out of the pigeonhole the world has (perhaps rightly) put the church into.
There was a line in the article that really grabbed my attention. Ayaat Labbad, one of the scholarship students, who went on to get a scholarship from Ryerson University, called the program a "Gift from God." She's right, and wrong at the same time.
Let me explain.
Yes, since every good gift is a gift from God (James 1:17), the gift of this scholarship was, in fact, from God ultimately. If you're concerned that perhaps this girl wasn't Christian and I'm still claiming this to be a gift from God, read James 1 again and take careful note of what James is calling a gift in that chapter. James is referring to the Lord "bringing us forth by the word of truth", about our becoming believers. That's a gift that happens pre-conversion obviously. So in a surface sense, Labbad is right. The scholarship is a gift from God.
The scholarship isn't the real gift though, it's just a trinket. A small token of the Lord's affection for this young lady. Something that costs the Lord nothing, but has great meaning to this woman. It is only a shadow, though, of the real gift the Lord has given her; something that was terribly costly indeed. The real gift is something that, sadly, Labbad and many like her may never have received at all. And that may be our fault.
Much of the discussion around refugees and the church, seems to surround the politics of refugees, Canada and what we, as a country, should or should not be doing. "Should we be allowing refugees? How many? Should the government be spending tax dollars to help them once they're here? How much?" Allow me to submit that these are not discussions the church, at an organizational level, should be having at all. Rather, the only discussions churches should be having here is: "How can we leverage our position to serve these people and give them the gift of the Gospel (if they're not believers) or Christian community (if they are).
The Church's job (as a whole) is to bring the gift of the Gospel to people. Period. I'm one of those weird people who wants to see a gospel-purpose in everything a local church does. I don't think that's a lot to ask, frankly.
When it comes to these girls, now that they are applying for refugee status our role as the church, ought not to be to complain and ask why they aren't going home, rather, we ought to be asking how can we help? How can we minister to them? For goodness sake, it really is as simple as "What would Jesus do?" here.
Jesus wouldn't complain about their immigration status, He wouldn't write His MP asking they be sent home because they are costing too many tax dollars. He'd feed them, he'd clothe them, and He'd tell them about Himself.
Why can't we do that, as the Church, and as churches? Why can't we start feeding, and clothing people as Jesus would? Many of these people, from nations like Syria, don't know Jesus and we have been given the gift of having them at our doorsteps. Let's make them question why we are giving them these gifts, and then let's show them the difference between a gift and a trinket.
As a Biblical conservative, a cultural Liberal, a husband, a dad, and a pastor, I want to see the church act differently in the world. My big passion in ministry is to see how believers can bring the Gospel into the world around them while pursuing the lost art of winsomeness. It is what fuels me and drives me to write. Engaging culture with the truth of the Gospel in a way that is winsome, wise, and as Colossians 4:6 directs us: “seasoned with salt.” It’s my hope that what I say here helps you not only in your own faith, but helps you share it more effectively and fruitfully.
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