I find it appalling that the church in the USA is not strenuously crying out for the protection of the Christian refugees. They are suffering worse treatment than anyone - slaughtered, forcibly converted, or sold as sex slaves. Yet many Christians will defend their silence claiming, "We mustn't choose favorites among the refugees."
However, God has done a lot of choosing Himself. He chose Israel, but this didn't mean that Him didn't also love the Gentiles and command Israel to do the same:
- “When a stranger sojourns with you in your land, you shall not do him wrong. You shall treat the stranger who sojourns with you as the native among you, and you shall love him as yourself, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God.” (Leviticus 19:33-34)
Although God had chosen Israel to be His favored people, He had also required more from Israel. To whom much is give, much is expected:
- “Hear this word that the Lord has spoken against you, O people of Israel, against the whole family that I brought up out of the land of Egypt: 'You only have I known of all the families of the earth; therefore I will punish you for all your iniquities.'” (Amos 3:1-2)
Nevertheless, Israel remained in the center of God's concerns:
- “But you, Israel, my servant, Jacob, whom I have chosen, the offspring of Abraham, my friend; you whom I took from the ends of the earth, and called from its farthest corners, saying to you, “You are my servant, I have chosen you and not cast you off”; fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. Behold, all who are incensed against you shall be put to shame and confounded; those who strive against you shall be as nothing and shall perish.” (Isaiah 41:8-11)
Today, this message of God's favoring Israel is highly distasteful to younger Christians. For them, this represents exclusion, an unacceptable "us vs. them" mentality. However, the reality of this distinction is inseparable from Scripture, even within the entirety of the NT.
While, the Christian is to love all, he is instructed to show preference for the brethren:
- “And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up. So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith.” (Galatians 6:9-10)
This priority would apply even to slave-masters:
- “Those who have believing masters must not be disrespectful on the ground that they are brothers; rather they must serve all the better since those who benefit by their good service are believers and beloved.” (1 Timothy 6:2)
Jesus preferred His brethren:
- “Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.” (Matthew 25:40)
According to Jesus, love had to begin with the brethren:
- “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” (John 13:34-35)
It would be through this love that the saving message of the Gospel would go forth. Jesus therefore prayed:
- “I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me.” (John 17:20-23)
The greatest way that we can love the world is through the demonstration of Christ in our midst through our love and unity. We therefore shouldn't be embarrassed to show a greater concern for those in the "household of faith." We mustn't turn our backs upon the plight of Christian refugees.
However, as God had been sterner with His chosen people Israel, we must also be sterner with those calling themselves "Christian." Church discipline was therefore reserved for those within the household:
- “I wrote to you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people— not at all meaning the sexually immoral of this world, or the greedy and swindlers, or idolaters, since then you would need to go out of the world. But now I am writing to you not to associate with anyone who bears the name of brother if he is guilty of sexual immorality or greed, or is an idolater, reviler, drunkard, or swindler—not even to eat with such a one. For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Is it not those inside the church whom you are to judge?” (1 Corinthians 5:9-12)
Jesus also reserved excommunication for the "brother" who sinned and refused to repent (Mat. 18:15-19). We therefore give more to the brethren but also expect more from them.
This is also true for our own families. We are to love our own wives and not our neighbor's wife. We are also to place our own children above our neighbor's children. To prefer our neighbor's children above our own can only provoke bitterness, jealousy, and charges of hypocrisy. But we also discipline our children, not our neighbor's.
This is also perhaps the best way to love our neighbors, by providing a loving home for our family. This is also a love that will reach out to others.
Christian love also reaches out to the surrounding world if it starts with the household of faith. The evidence for this is ubiquitous. We can start by comparing the Christian West with the worlds of Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, or Communism. The contributions of Christ are unmistakable. Writer Paul Copan relates the experience of Canadian Broadcasting Corp journalist, Brian Stewart and his “slow, reluctant conversion”:
- “I’ve never reached a war zone, or famine group or crisis anywhere where some church organization was not there long before me… I’m often asked if I lost belief in God covering events like Ethiopia, then called ‘the worst hell on earth.’ Actually, like others before me, it was precisely in such hells that I rediscovered religion.” (Christian Research Journal, Vol 37/Number 04, 46-47)
Historian Ruth Tucker reports that:
- Missionaries in Africa were opposed to slavery from an early period, and they used a variety of means to oppose it, including buying slaves and establishing plantations for them to work on. (From Jerusalem to Irian Jaya,102)
- The missionaries insisted on treating native people as human beings who are entitled to the protection of the law, and this rubbed salt into the wound. It should come as no surprise, therefore, that colonists and traders often opposed missions.” (103)
- Traders and colonists resisted the evangelism of native people, seeing conversion as the first step to indigenous people gaining access to the resources of Western culture and hence to the power that colonists wished to keep for themselves…Native people who wished to break free of the settler’s stranglehold and worship God were immediately persecuted by the white traders. (103-104)
Many other historians credit the missionaries with opposition to the abuses of colonialism:
- The missionaries [to New Guinea] from the start found themselves in bitter opposition to the white traders and exploiters… [who] placed men sick of the measles on various islands in order to destroy the population through disease. (Stephen Neill, History of Christian Missions, 355
Our new brand of militant atheists competes among themselves to indict Christianity’s impact on society, even to the point of charging “child abuse.” However, there have been many non-Christians who also have noted the contributions of the much-maligned Christianity. Copan cites the example of the late postmodern atheist Jacques Derrida:
- “Today the cornerstone of international law is the sacred… the concept of crime against humanity is a Christian concept and I think there would be no such thing in the law today without the Christian heritage.” (46)
Copan also cites “one Chinese scholar representing one of China’s premier academic research organizations:
- “In the past twenty years, we have realized that the heart of your culture is your religion: Christianity. This is why the West has been so powerful. The Christian moral foundation of social and cultural life was what made possible… the successful transition to democratic politics. We don’t have any doubt about this.” (46)
Copan calls atheist Jurgen Habermas “perhaps Europe’s most prominent philosopher.” However, even he admits:
- “Christianity and nothing else is the ultimate foundation of liberty, conscience, human rights and democracy, the benchmarks of Western civilization. We continue to nourish ourselves from this source.”
Robert Woodberry, professor of sociology, University of Texas, has devoted the last 14 years to investigate why certain countries develop thriving democracies, while neighboring countries are failed states. Andrea Palpant Dilley writes that:
- Woodberry already had historical proof that missionaries had educated women and the poor, promoted widespread printing, let nationalistic movements that empowered ordinary citizens, and fueled other key elements of democracy. Now the statistics were backing it up: Missionaries weren’t just part of the picture. They were central to it. (Christianity Today, Jan/Feb 2014, 38)
To his amazement, Woodberry was discovering that a long denigrated ingredient was actually central to the creation of successful states – the missionary. He writes:
- “Areas where Protestant missionaries had a significant presence in the past are on average more economically developed today, with comparatively better health, lower infant mortality, lower corruption, greater literacy, higher educational attainment (especially for women), and more robust membership in non-governmental associations.” (39)
- Pull out a map, says Woodberry, point to any place where “conversionary Protestants” were active in the past, and you’ll typically find more printed books and more schools per capita. You’ll find too, that in Africa, the Middle East, and in parts of Asia, most of the early nationalists who led their countries to independence graduated from Protestant mission schools. (41)
These few quotations do not do justice to the impact of Christian love growing out of a Christian community which has nurtured it. In America's Blessings: How Religion Benefits Everyone, Including Atheists (2012), Sociologist of Religion, Rodney Stark, provides further evidence that Christian love has profoundly impacted those among whom it had been planted. Jerry Newcombe, whose notes I am drawing from, writes:
- He notes that religion benefits everyone, even the non-religious, who feel the residual effect.
- Those who attend church more often tend to donate much more often. For example, he writes, "…religious people dominate the ranks of blood donors, to whom even some angry humanists owe their lives."
- “Religious Americans are far more likely to contribute even to secular charities, to volunteer their times to socially beneficial programs, and to be active in civic affairs.
- “Religious Americans enjoy superior mental health---they are happier, less neurotic, and far less likely to commit suicide.
- “Religious Americans also enjoy superior physical health, having an average life expectancy more than seven years longer than that of the irreligious. A very substantial difference remains even after the effects of ‘clean living’ are removed.
- “Religious people are more apt to marry and less likely to divorce, and they express higher degrees of satisfaction with their spouses. They also are more likely to have children.
- “Religious husbands are substantially less likely to abuse their wives or children.
- “Although often portrayed as ignorant philistines, religious Americans are more likely to consume and sustain ‘high culture.’”
Having such neighbors will inevitably exert a positive impact on their community. In contrast, the Communist ideal has been to treat everyone in the same manner. However, each of their failed states suggests that brotherhood cannot be imposed from above but must radiate out from concentric circles of intimacy. Love must begin at home if it is to benefit anyone.
Progressive thought must reevaluate itself, and Christians must take a second look at our overriding responsibility for Christian refugees.