Pastor Mark’s eNote – Compassion, Caution, Christ

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Compassion, Caution, Christ

It is a heated debate.  Should we receive refugees from the war-torn Middle East?  In doing so, are we raising the threat of terrorist attack?  What is safe?  What is the right path as we move forward?
I know this is a difficult issue, and I certainly know that a few words from me in an e-Note will not resolve the issue (“Mark said it; that settles it”?  Hardly.)  But that we struggle with this issue is important-obviously for those who suffer, but also for our souls as followers of Christ.
As you consider the question of receiving refugees, where does your faith lead you?  For me, to follow Christ is to respond to any suffering with compassion.  That’s kind of obvious, isn’t it?  So, surely we can agree to make that our starting place.  What can be done?  And what part of that can we as the church do?  How do we express the love of Christ in this situation?  How can we care as he cares, love as he loves?
In this situation, surely the instinct of Christian faith is to offer shelter and care for the displaced, to offer hope to the refugees.  If this is an appropriate Christian viewpoint-and I have a really hard time imagining that is isn’t-then our search for a proper response to the refugee crisis will be guided by Christian compassion.  Where is grace in this?  What is kind?  Where is mercy to be found?
However-and it is certainly a significant however-we live in a dangerous world, and those who desire to kill and destroy will use any means available to accomplish their evil.  So, caution is appropriate and necessary.  We are called to protect the innocent.  But what is appropriate caution, and where does the call for caution become fear-mongering or even xenophobia?
As you seek to answer that question, I encourage you to do some research.  First, what safeguards are currently in place?  What is the vetting process right now?  Here, as a beginning, are a few of many available sources you can check:
 
http://www.foxnews.com/world/2015/11/18/inside-screening-process-for-syrian-refugees-checking-documents-stories-and/
 
http://www.npr.org/2015/11/17/456395388/paris-attacks-ignite-debate-over-u-s-refugee-policy
 
http://news.yahoo.com/things-know-syrian-refugees-vetting-process-083732160–politics.html
 
http://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-34848248
 
http://www.bloombergview.com/articles/2015-11-18/states-press-white-house-for-details-on-syrian-refugees
 
http://time.com/4116619/syrian-refugees-screening-process/
 
http://www.state.gov/r/pa/prs/ps/2015/11/249613.htm
What, if anything, beyond our current guidelines is needed?  Can you see a way through this?  Can we in our shared wisdom find an answer?
For us Christians, such issues are never simple.  We seek to do no harm, and we seek to do good.  We constantly weigh the two.  I do know, however, that as we work to protect ourselves and those we love, it is possible to be TOO careful.  What does it profit us to find perfect security but lose our soul?  Our soul belongs to Christ, who did not seek first his own safety.  He was compassion incarnate; he made his home with the lost and suffering.
I believe with all my heart that Christ is the hope of the world, and I believe also that his way of grace and mercy is the way that leads to eternal life.  It isn’t always easy, but it is always true.  In our discussion of this or any other issue, let us begin with the love of Christ. Let our goal be to help the powerless in this world.  The call to show mercy to the sojourner is as ancient as the people called Israel.  Now, how do you believe we can best accomplish that?
Let us begin with compassion; let us proceed with wisdom and appropriate caution; and always, in all things, Christ.
In Christ,
Rev. Mark Westmoreland
Author: Jenn Harris

“I am dedicated to helping our church communicate the love of Jesus Christ, and passionate about helping people connect with others and our amazing God.”

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