Right now the EU countries are meeting and desperately trying to find a way to save Angela Merkel’s skin. Having invited 1.2 million refugees into Germany she is finding that the price is a heavy one. Meanwhile in Sweden a far right anti-immigrant party is about to become the main opposition party – in Italy and Malta refugees have been turned back. The EU nations can and should complain about the callous attitude shown to immigrants and their children both by the current Trump administration and the previous Obama one; but the fact is that the EU policy of relying on the Mediterranean as their wall has resulted in thousands of deaths. Meanwhile in Australia they are congratulating themselves that the rest of the Western world seems to be now following a policy that they all condemned.
What are we to make of all of this as Christians? My fear is that we will respond according to our political views, rather than biblically. We will use the Bible to justify those views. We make simple issues that are really complex and we offer easy solutions where there are none.
But I want to reflect upon this from the perspective of what the church should do. Last weekend I had the privilege of helping at a refugees picnic in Australia – I found the whole thing profoundly moving – and I know that Annabel has been greatly impacted by being involved in this work whilst we are in Australia.
I met a young boy who had spent one-third of his short life in a refugee camp in Lebanon and had just been in Australia for four months. I really enjoyed getting to know him, his brother and his parents. I can only imagine the trauma that that boy has been through. So well done to Australia for taking that family in – and well done to Anglicare for seeking to provide real and genuine help.
On the plane back I was reminded of another story which we came across in Australia. The BBC news on the plane had an interview with a Rohingya Muslim lady who had been gang raped by Burmese soldiers. She said that aborting her child would have been a sin because neither she nor the child had done anything wrong.
She reminded me of a woman whose testimony was that she also had been raped and abused and seen all her family killed. She came as a refugee to Australia and found she was pregnant. She wanted to kill herself but found that her desire and love for her child kept her alive. (a note for those Western liberals who want to impose abortion upon other countries as a condition of aid – perhaps killing the child in the womb doesn’t really help the victim of rape?).
Whilst the political and economic questions are complex and difficult for me the question as to what the church should do is easily answered. Christ tells us.
“When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his glorious throne. 32 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. 33 He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left. “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. 35 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, 36 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? 38 When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39 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.’ “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. 42 For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, 43 I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’ “They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’ “He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’ “Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.” (Matthew 25)
We are to do whatever we can to help. The teaching of this passage is that those who refuse to take in the stranger, provide them with clothes, do not visit them in prison and do not give food and drink, deserve to go to hell. After meeting with my young refugee friend I understand that passage so much better. His name and face (which will remain anonymous) have been etched in my memory and will stay I hope in my prayers for the rest of my life. But not just in my prayers.
I have one simple question to ask all of us in the evangelical church – We believe that the teaching of the Bible is essential and must be followed by the church, whatever the wider culture says. God willing we will defend that doctrine and teaching to the end of our days – but what are we doing to practice what we preach? Faith without deeds is dead. This is should be on the priority list of every single Kirk Session and Deacons Court. For me it is a very personal question. What will I say on the Day of Judgement? What will you?