The recent terrorist attacks in Paris, France and San Bernardino, California have stirred much debate in our country concerning the religion of Islam, and whether the United States should allow refugees from Syria into the country. There are strong and passionate opinions on both sides of the debate. Politicians who are running for president have proposed policies ranging from extensive background checks to bans on all travel by Muslims to the U.S. just because they are Muslims.
For us as Christians, we can feel very strong emotions as we think about how we should respond to these attacks and to the Syrian refugee crisis. On the one hand, we have a desire for justice and to protect our own families from terrorists, who have the explicit agenda of infiltrating westernized countries and carrying out acts of terror on innocent people. However, we are also filled with compassion for refugees who are in an unimaginably difficult situation. Many have been displaced from their cities and homes. The place they used to live, work, and care for their family is now filled with war. Innocent people, including women and children, have been killed in the last four years of civil war in Syria. They are desperate to leave their own country and find safety and shelter. Both the emotions of compassion and protection are strong emotions.
In light of these strong emotions and the debate that is occurring, as the Pastors of Candlewood, we would like to remind our church of several things:
- Don’t let fear rule your emotions
The goal of terroristic acts is terror. Fear is a powerful emotion and is unhealthy if we let it affect the decisions we make. We serve a God who is sovereign overall and is The Almighty. He is more powerful than any ruler on this earth or in the spiritual realm. The scriptures command us, “Do Not Fear.” Often the command is followed with the words, “For I am with you.” We have no reason to fear because we are secure in the love and saving grace of Jesus Christ. He is with us and that makes all the difference. We should not let fear prevent us from doing normal things in life like attending public gatherings. We should not let fear prevent us from loving and getting to know the Muslim neighbors who live down the block. We shouldn’t let fear isolate us from other religions or cultures.
- Do not let this issue cause division between yourself and other believers
Romans 12:18 says “As far as it depends upon you, be at peace with all men.” In this day and age of social media, we can easily spout opinions and get into arguments. Let this not be so in Candlewood. This issue is very complex. There are no easy answers for our politicians. If there were easy answers, they would have already been implemented. Our response when faced with hot topic issues is that we should be, “Quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to become angry.” (James 1:19) Healthy debate is important, but it is our hope that we reflectively listen to one another, understand each other, and love one another, while discussing topics we are passionate about. We need to understand these are grey area issues and not let ourselves be polarized. We must continue to be united with our brothers and sisters with the gospel as our focus.
- Our Job as Christians is to be representatives of Christ here on this earth
While Christ was on this earth, He spoke and acted with both grace and truth. This should be how we speak and act as well. We need to let the love of Christ guide all that we do. We need to lead with grace as we speak truth. We have been entrusted with the Good News of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. In all that we do, we should be ambassadors of Christ here on this earth, living as he did, and speaking the Gospel as he commanded. No matter what opinion we have of what the United States should do, we need to be representing Christ here on this earth. If refugees are brought into the U.S. and settled in our cities, it would be our hope that Candlewood would be an example of love. We pray we would be ambassadors of the Gospel and would welcome not only Muslims but people of all cultures and religions into our homes. We have an incredible opportunity and responsibility to share the love and Gospel of Jesus Christ.
The question of what to do as a country will continue to be sorted out by the politicians and lawmakers of our country. We as Christians can have hope and confidence in the future because we serve a God who is sovereign. Let us be examples of grace and truth as we proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ.