Refugee and Immigrant Travel Ban| A Missional Response

“This is indeed a complicated situation. On this matter, the government and the church seem to have different god-given responsibilities and it appears that the church must disagree with the government, even though the government might be doing the right thing.”

This a summary of a quote from a conversation I had with an ethicist several months ago when the refugee crisis and rumors of terrorism were gaining national attention. I was looking for a clear cut response, but his answer highlighted the complexity of the situation. It also reminded me that as a Christian, my faith, not politics, must determine my personal response. Over the weekend, the US government implemented travel restrictions on refugees and immigrants. This has been received with much criticism, and also some praise. You can see a summary of the executive order here at the Gospel Coalition website

As expected, emotions are at a boiling point. My goal here is not to solve the issue, or even to present the reader with a grid for thinking about this executive order. Frankly, this is not my job or my calling. I will leave this to more capable men and women, like my friend quoted above, who are adept in the complexities and nuances of the situation. Instead, I want to provide a missionary grid that can guide our actions. The apostle Paul writes that we are Christ’s ambassadors, and that our message is one of salvation:

Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ; certain that God is appealing through us, we plead on Christ’s behalf, “Be reconciled to God.” (2 For 5:20)

As we respond to this current situation, we dare not neglect this mandate. Below I want to give 3 quick reference points to help us keep our missionary vision in the midst of this tense moment.

1. National Politics Should Not Diminish The Fact That We Are Citizens Of Two Kingdoms

As citizens in the United States of America, we are given the right (dare we say — “responsibility”) to be engaged in the policy and political processes of our country. We have opinions and priorities shaped by different national interests and political goals. This is ok; however, at no point can Christians allow these positions to blind us to the fact that we are also citizens of the eternal kingdom of God. It is often difficult to find the proper balance; however this difficulty does not eliminate this reality. Let’s make sure that we are not living as traitors to the kingdom of our eternal King while vocally advocating for our temporary home.

2. The Scriptures Call Us To Love Our Neighbors

Now, it is important to keep in mind that the Bible does not call on governments to love. Governments have different responsibilities. We as Christians are given the command to love our neighbors. This was clearly illustrated by Jesus in the story of the Good Samaritan – See Luke 10:25–37. Nothing should be done with unloving and uncharitable motives. We cannot use political language to justify unloving behavior. Again, this is difficult. Christians are called to a lifestyle of love — this includes loving those who are like us and those who are our enemies. Paul tells us,

“Love is patient, love is kind, love does not envy, is not boastful, is not conceited, does not act improperly, is not selfish, is not provoked, does not keep a record of wrongs, finds no joy in unrighteousness, but rejoices in the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things, love never ends. (I Cor 13:4–8)

3. Our Ultimate Mandate Is To Make Disciples Of All Nations

The reason we must keep a proper kingdom balance and live with love as our guiding principle, is that we have the divine responsibility of escorting people to Jesus. He alone is the refuge for the refugee. He alone is the security for the wandering person. Christ provides eternal hope for those with little in this world. Missionary Christians must keep this principle in mind:

“We cannot do anything that will detract, distract, or diminish our ability to fulfill this mandate.”

As Paul reminded us, in the verse I quoted above, we are the mouthpiece of Jesus calling men and women to trust in him for salvation. Do not allow the smog of this world cause us to lose our way and forsake our mission. In times like these, perspective is key. The issues may be complicated, but as Christians, we have clear guidelines. Let’s keep true to the missionary vision of our God.

Scott Hildreth Administrator
Scott Hildreth is the director of the Lewis A. Drummond Center for Great Commission Studies. He frequently speaks on issues of missions, spiritual formation, missiology, and theology. Scott also contributes to SEBTS faculty blog
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