Ever since last week’s terrorist attacks on Paris, debating the issue of Syrian refugees has been all the rage in the news and especially on social media. While I appreciate good debate about controversial topics and feel that there is wide room for differences in opinion, I do believe as a Christian that one’s faith should be foundational in the forming of thoughts and opinions in regard to this sort of sociopolitical issue. Bearing the name of Christ is a privilege and a responsibility, and those that are truly His followers will submit every aspect of their lives and person to that relationship.
Unfortunately, many Christians have never allowed their worldview to be impacted by their relationship with Christ and therefore they view “non-religious” issues through the same lens that the rest of the world does. All of this goes to say that my concern is not so much with what one’s opinion is on the refugee issue (or any other for that matter), but with the thought process that got them to that opinion. Though a topic like immigration may seem to be strictly sociopolitical in nature, there are numerous biblical principles that should affect our thoughts on the matter.
Perhaps most importantly is the foundational Biblical teaching that a Christian’s citizenship is in heaven. The world of the physical is neither the home nor primary concern of a Christian. This is a common New Testament theme. In Philippians 3:20, Paul tells believers outright that “our citizenship is in heaven.” He was contrasting this mindset with that of professing believers who had their mind set on earthly things, a practice he specifically condemns in Colossians 3:2 where he says to “set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.” None of this was original with Paul, though, because even Jesus instructed His disciples to “seek first the kingdom of God.” As we consider any issue or topic such as immigration, we must be sure that our priorities are those of the heavenly kingdom and not an earthly one. With that being said, here are a few kingdom principles that we must consider:
- Compassion is not conditional. We are to love others as Christ loved us, without condition or regard for how He was treated in return. There may be times that I must decline to offer benevolence, but I should do so with a loving and compassionate heart. We must love our enemies and be compassionate to all who are hurting even if this could bring us potential harm. That is how Jesus loved, and it is what He expects of us.
- We are not to be ruled by fear. Believers should not make decisions or form opinions based on fear. God is bigger than what might happen. He is bigger than the evil in this world, and we must be ruled by His Spirit alone and not the fear of all that is in the world around us.
- We must desire the salvation of the nations. Many of our opinions form around those things that we desire. Our desires reflect our values. As a believer, what we should value the most is the salvation of souls. We must view life first and foremost in terms of opportunities to spread the gospel.
- The gospel opposes nationalism. While there is nothing wrong with appreciating an earthly nation, we must remember that our allegiance is to Christ who removed racial and nationalistic divisions. It is sinful to value any nation above another or to promote a nation’s interests above those of God’s kingdom.
- Honor authority. Though we must not be nationalistic, we do have a Christian obligation to honor the authorities that are above us. We are supposed to honor, obey and even respect our earthly government because God has placed them in authority. Regardless of what our social and political opinions may be, we must hold and express them in a way that is not disrespectful toward authority.
My desire in expressing these principles is not to attack anyone or to stir up controversy, but to call believers to view the world as God does. We must allow our faith in Him and our commitment to Him to impact every facet of our lives – even our sociopolitical opinions.