A Christian friend wants to help the Middle East refugees but stated emphatically that he doesn't want to help just Christian refugees. While this is commendable, it also might represent the fear that we are seen to favor Christians and are, therefore, biased.
However, his concern is biblically extreme. While we are to express love to all people, the priority is upon “the family of believers”:
- Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers. (Galatians 6:10 )
This truth might make us feel uncomfortable, but it is thoroughly biblical, and perhaps even our highest expression of love towards the rest of the world.
Biblically, there is nothing wrong with the idea that charity begins at home. Jesus told a parable demonstrating that, when we give to our brethren, it is the same as giving to Him:
- “All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats… Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’ “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink?... When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’ “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’” (Matthew 25:32, 34-37, 39-40)
What we do for the brethren, we do for Jesus Himself. These should occupy a special place in our thinking and doing:
- If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him? (1 John 3:17)
Likewise, we have a greater debt of responsibility to our immediate families:
- Anyone who does not provide for their relatives, and especially for their own household, has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever. (1 Timothy 5:8)
There is nothing illegitimate about love starting at the center of our family – both our faith and biological families – and radiating out from there:
- Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her.... to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself.” (Ephesians 5:25, 27-28)
Love has to begin at home with our wife and not with our neighbor's wife. Love is not to be applied to everyone indiscriminately. Instead, according to the biblical model, love must emanate out from the marriage to the children and then to the community. From this perspective, we understand that the best way to love our children is to first love our wives. And the best way to love our communities is through our loving family.
If we love our neighbor but fail to love our wives and children, we show that our love is hypocritical. This family concept also extends to the brethren, the household of faith, our persecuted brethren.
How does love for our suffering brethren translate into love for the world? It does so in many ways. Jesus highlighted one of them:
- “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” (John 13:34-35 )
When we love the brethren, we demonstrate the reality of the Christian faith in very tangible ways. Jesus even prayed about this to the Father:
- “My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one— I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.” (John 17:20-23)
This is not optional! Meanwhile, the world is pointing to the silence of the churches. Instead, when one suffers, we should also mourn with them. Perhaps the best way we can love the world is by showing them the reality of our Savior through the love and concern we demonstrate for one another, which expresses our unity in Christ.
While we don’t disparage the rescuing of Muslim refugees, there doesn’t seem to be a nation in the world (perhaps with the exception of Poland) which is trying to rescue Christians from their appalling circumstances. Meanwhile, they are suffering worse than others and have nowhere to go.
Several years ago in The Global War on Christians, CNN writer John L. Allen Jr. gave us some idea of the extensiveness of Christian persecution:
- From Iraq and Egypt to Sudan and Nigeria, from Indonesia to the Indian subcontinent, Christians in the early twenty-first century are the world’s most persecuted religious group. According to the secular International Society for Human Rights, 80 percent of violations of religious freedom in the world today are directed against Christians.
- The Open Doors Estimate, based on decades of tracking the realities of persecution in some of the darkest corners of the earth, is that roughly one hundred million Christians today suffer interrogation, arrest, and even death for their faith, with the bulk located in Asia and the Middle East. The overall total makes Christians the most at-risk group for violations of religious freedom. (37)
Since then, it has only gotten worse! Meanwhile, there are many Muslim nations that could take in Muslim refugees. Instead, the West is taking them in, neglecting the Christian refugees who are far more likely to make a positive adjustment to the West.
Please, join me in prayer - you and your church - for our persecuted brethren. Ask Him how we can help. Please also encourage your pastor to involve your church in this effort, organizing prayer chains, speaking from the pulpit, and giving material support to those facing death. We cannot ignore these horrors. We cannot turn our backs:
- Rescue those being led away to death; hold back those staggering toward slaughter. If you say, "But we knew nothing about this," does not he who weighs the heart perceive it? Does not he who guards your life know it? Will he not repay each person according to what he has done? (Proverbs 24:11-12)