Be Not Afraid: A Christian Response to Refugees

We are afraid.

Any attack on human life shakes us, disturbs us, upsets us. Something about this one -- a coordinated attack on people dining, dancing and going about their lives in a city many of us love -- has frightened us in seemingly new ways. It has people thinking and worrying, "it could happen here."

That's what "they" wanted, right? To disrupt our sense of safety. To make us feel like nowhere is safe. To control us from cowardly corners or posthumous power.

The question is, what will we do with our fear?

We can rise through our fears. We can be like this father, replacing violence with beauty and helping our children not be afraid. We can continue on in our daily doings, embracing our gifts of freedom and opportunity. We can use our fears as a driver to be a bit more vigilant, to think of new solutions, or to push stronger towards peace.

Or, we can stumble in our fears. We can let fear drive us to divisiveness, rash decisions, profiling, and reinforced stereotypes. We can stoop to cowardly rhetoric. We too can turn to classify an entire swath of humanity as the enemy. We can become the deciders of who is good and who is evil, favoring exclusion as a means of protection.

What choice do we make?

As a Christian, a Catholic, I pause to ask the age-old question: What would Jesus do?

I ask you Mr. Murdoch, Senator Cruz, Governor Huckabee -- or anyone who identifies as Christian -- to seriously consider that question. Pause before uttering hateful language, suggesting religious examinations, or advocating exclusion. Take a moment ask yourself how a Christian ought to respond to such a challenge as the one we face.

If you're a Catholic, you might turn to Pope Francis and his innumerable calls for us to serve the most vulnerable among us. For guidance, you may recall his reminder in September that "the Gospel calls us, asks us to be near, the littlest and the abandoned." He told us that the church, and all of us with her, "opens her arms to welcome all people, without distinction or limits."

Maybe Francis isn't your authority on the issue. In that case, turn to Jesus. After being persecuted by those who feared him, Jesus, a refugee himself, leaves us with a final commandment: "Love one another as I have loved you." Is closing our borders to thousands of refugees an expression of His love? As Christians, fear cannot outweigh our understanding of His love or His call to ministry. As if He prepared us for this very moment, Jesus tells us "there is no fear in love, but perfect love drives out fear because fear has to do with punishment, and so one who fears is not yet perfect in love".

Jesus didn't ask us to limit our love to those who follow him or to those we deem worthy of it. In fact, his message was almost always about reaching beyond our circles and opening arms to people we don't understand, think have wronged us, and even whom we fear. In the Parable of the Feast, Jesus tells his disciples to "not invite your friends" but to invite those outside your circle who have an "inability to repay you". Passage after passage of the Bible reinforces Christ's message of indiscriminate love, open-hearted welcome, and care of those who suffer. What He would call us to do in these challenging times is clear.

It is up to all of us -- regardless of religion -- to overcome fears and to be louder than hate. But as Christians, we have an even stronger, clearer call. We answer a call from Christ to share a message of love, welcome, and service with the world -- even in times of great anxiety, uncertainty, and fear. This is our duty and His commandment.

You shall wander far in safety though you do not know the way.
You shall speak your words in foreign lands and all will understand.
You shall see the face of God and live.
Be not afraid.