Christians Opposed to Syrian Refugees Need Right Heart and Tone

Syrian refugee
A Syrian refugee embraces his son after their overcrowded raft landed at a rocky beach in the Greek island of Lesbos, November 19, 2015. Balkan countries have begun filtering the flow of migrants to Europe, granting passage to those fleeing conflict in the Middle East and Afghanistan but turning back others from Africa and Asia, the United Nations and Reuters witnesses said on Thursday. |

The Christian ethic is one that relishes in the risk of sacrifice.

Loving our neighbors will come at a cost to our own security and comfortability, and in complicated matters such as this, we should demonstrate a love that casts out fear.

I made this argument recently for Letter to the Exiles.

At the same time, we have to use wisdom, prudence, and discernment as we go about that. I agree with Kevin DeYoung that "immigration policy must be based on more than compassion."

Those who argue for limits or bans on immigration are not necessarily driven by fear and xenophobia, as those on the opposite side automatically presume. You can oppose accepting Syrian refugees without "hating" or "not loving" them.

That said, most of the loudest Christians in the "no refugees!" camp are doing a terrible job at communicating their position in a loving and gracious way. It saddens me that our discourse is this base and poisonous.

The position of our hearts and the arc of our tone matter.

For example:

1. This Sounds Like Fear:

"Not one more refugee! We have a hard enough time assimilating people who are already in the United States. How are we supposed to take in these people who don't respect our laws or society? Most of these refugees are MUSLIMS, and who knows if they're violent jihadists! Most of the Muslim world is radicalized, so there's no way to tell! We have no reason to accept any refugee from the Middle East again, particularly single Muslim men. Let the other nearby Muslim countries take care of their own crazies!"

2. This Sounds Like Love:

"It breaks my heart that these people are left without a home, and that the culture and society around them has disintegrated. It breaks my heart that these same people have grown up in a country that shuns the light of the Gospel, and the peace and comfort it provides. But we are in a state of war, and it is incredibly difficult to screen these refugees. As much as I want to welcome these people into our neighborhoods and share the love of Jesus with them (not to mention the fruits of prosperity and social order), we simply cannot do so at this time. There may be a time in the future where we can learn enough to vet these refugees appropriately, but given the attacks in Paris and other pressing threats, we need to put a temporary pause on any and all refugees coming into the United States. Fellow Christians, please pray that our leaders can come to a solution that allows us to welcome the broken and the lost even as we protect our society from similar destruction."

To be sure, there are many Christians who DO sound like #2, and for you, I am grateful. I disagree with your conclusion — that the costs/risks of accepting refugees outweighs the benefits or moral imperative — but I can sense the love of Jesus beating in your heart.

To the rest, your heart may in fact be in the right place. If it is, please get your rhetoric in order.

If it isn't, please consider the image of God in all people, and what Christ really meant when he sent us to spread the love of the one true God to every corner of the Earth.

Joseph Sunde is a writer for the Acton Institute and

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