Recent world events have begun a global discussion about refugees, immigration, terrorism, and international policy. Everyone seems to have an opinion on such matters and whether you’re at the water cooler or the steps of the U.S. Capitol, there’s a chance you’ve engaged in several of these discussions.

These conversations aren’t just happening out in the proverbial culture, but they are taking place within the Church, as well. American evangelical Christians have expressed a wide range of opinions, especially on whether or not the United States should accept Syrian refugees into the country. This is certainly a very complicated matter and one that requires thoughtfulness, wisdom, and clarity.

I don’t intend to give the final word on this issue, and I certainly will not pretend to pen the “Christian Position on Refugees.” I do, however, want to provide some guiding principles for believers as we discuss these things.

  • Be informed by the Bible. Followers of Jesus must first and foremost be shaped and influenced by His Word. We can never assume that just because someone claims to be a Christian that they are speaking from a biblical worldview. Our beliefs about the world cannot be shaped primarily by a cable news network; the Bible must mold our consciences more than anything else.
  • The Bible was not written as a political manifesto. Yes, the Bible says to care for orphans and widows (James 1:27). Yes, the Bible says to care for the sojourner and to love him as yourself (Leviticus 19:34). But the Bible’s foremost purpose is not as a political philosophy or platform. Rather, these admonitions from Scripture function to shape the response of local churches and individual believers. This doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t lobby or express concerns which are motivated from the Bible, but we should be careful to think a government will do everything in sync with biblical justice.
  • Governments have a God-ordained responsibility to protect and serve its citizens. God has established governments as an earthly authority to protect its people (Romans 13:1–7). This means that it is right for people in political office to think primarily about important global decisions and how those decisions will impact the people they represent. In his recent Washington Post article, Russell Moore says, “It is completely right to ensure that the United States have a strong process to discern who are truly refugees and who are trying to take advantage of refugees.” Our leaders face difficult decisions and it is right for them to consider the safety of American citizens.
  • Christians should show Christ-like compassion for refugees. While the Bible is not a political manifesto, it certainly is a Christian manifesto. We, of all people, should see refugees as an opportunity to express the love and compassion of Christ. We are called to share the Gospel and bless all nations and all people. They are not our enemy, but our neighbor. Early Christians transformed their society because they cared for the poor, the orphans, and the widows of their society. May we learn from that example and have compassion on those who are experiencing tremendous loss. Russell Moore goes on to share in his article, “At the same time, evangelical Christians cannot be people who turn their back on our mission field. We should be the ones calling to the rest of the world to remember the image of God and inalienable human dignity, of persecuted people whether Christian, Jewish, Muslim, or Yazidi, especially those fleeing from genocidal Islamic terrorists.”
  • Christians can disagree on what the United States government should do…and that’s OK. We must agree that all Christians should be compassionate. We must agree that governments should protect its people. But we may not all agree on how our government should respond. So, “Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ has forgiven you” (Ephesians 4:32). Be wise with how you share your opinion, because your tone matters. There’s no reason to suspend compassionate Christian character for the sake of your opinion.

Christian, show compassion and wisdom as you discuss these things. Be informed. Be biblical. Be Christian.

For more insight on this matter I’ve found Russell Moore and Kevin DeYoung to have written valuable and balanced responses to the current situation. Check them out.

Zac Hess joined the pastoral staff in 2013 after serving as an intern during his seminary studies. He grew up on a farm in Ashland, OH and later met his wife, Sarah, who grew up as part of Grace Polaris Church. Zac pursued biblical studies at both Grace College and Grace Theological Seminary. He loves sports, the outdoors, reading, and a good cup of coffee. Zac and Sarah are the proud parents of one-year-old Jacob.