The Syrian Refugee Crisis

Many are wondering how our governments should respond to the refugee crisis. After the Paris attacks there is a growing fear of the possibility of acts of terror in our cities. This has caused some to feel like we should enhance our security by closing our borders to the Syrian refugees. The following post contains the thoughts of the executive director for Interserve’s US office on this topic:

In Matthew 24 Jesus predicted that the Temple would be destroyed. In response the disciples asked: “Tell us, when will this be, and what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?”

Up through Matthew 24:35 Jesus described what things would look like before the destruction of the Temple. Those times were going to be bleak, dark, and painful. Then, in 24:36-39 Jesus appears to shift topics and speak of his return at the end of the age. Jesus said: “But about that day and hour no one knows, neither the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. For as the days of Noah were, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day Noah entered the ark, and they knew nothing until the flood came and swept them all away, so too will be the coming of the Son of Man.”

Since things will appear so normal at the time of his return, Jesus warns us in 24:44: “Therefore you also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an unexpected hour.”

In the remaining part of Chapter 24 and in all of Chapter 25 Jesus takes up this theme of being ready for his return.

In 24:45-51 Jesus highlights the dire consequences of our not being ready with the parable of the unfaithful slave. This slave became self absorbed, getting drunk and abusing those under his authority.

In 25:1-13 Jesus shifts the subject a bit. He moved from focusing on one who was totally self absorbed and not ready to five who were ready and five who were not ready. He does this with the parable of the five wise and the five foolish bridesmaids. It appears that it will be possible for Jesus’ followers to be ready- but not all will be ready.

Then Jesus begins to slightly shift his emphasis again. In 25:14-30 he moves from a even ratio of five to five to a ratio of two to one with the parable of the talents. Two servants used their talents wisely, benefitting their Master while the one servant just buried the talent he was given. Jesus’ point appears to be that if we use our gifts in serving him we will be ready when he returns. (Having a solid theology of work as vocation helps us use our talents wisely in service of our Lord. Viewing work as vocation is one of our strengths in Interserve.)

Finally, in 25:31-46 Jesus closes this section with the story of his return and the judgment of the nations. Jesus appears to elaborate more on what we can do to be ready for his return. It seems that those who are intentional in doing tangible acts of mercy by caring for the poor, marginalized, and even outcast will not only be ready but welcomed. Jesus tells these compassionate ones: “Come, you that are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.”

The question that seems to arise out of these verses is: Are we at a point in time when we as the people of God should be intentional in doing these acts of mercy for those we consider strangers, doing what we can to demonstrate our devotion to Jesus and our readiness for His return?