Jesus Isn’t Safe
The biggest objection I hear to allowing refugees into the U.S. is the danger that some of them might be extremists. Now, the chances of being killed by an Islamic Extremist is a fraction of the chances of being killed by eating cheeseburgers, but I have to acknowledge that it’s a valid fear.
But it’s not a Christian fear.
The Bible is clear about how we should treat our enemies.
If your enemies are hungry, give them bread to eat;
and if they are thirsty, give them water to drink… (Proverbs 25:21)
“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you… For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers and sisters, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? (Matthew 5:43-47 redacted)
Do not repay anyone evil for evil. (Romans 12:17a)
Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. (Romans 12:21)
Surely that’s a foolish approach. Yet that’s what the Bible says, in the Old Testament and the New, from both Jesus and Paul.
Maybe they weren’t serious?
Yet Jesus, as he was hanging from the Cross while being executed as an innocent man, held true to this teaching:
“Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing.” Luke 23:34
This, I think, is the point: Being Jesus wasn’t safe. Following Jesus isn’t safe. As Paul wrote:
All who want to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted. (2 Timothy 3:12)
As we consider the question of refugees, we might question which is more important: the lives of hundreds of thousands of poor people trying to escape from violence and conditions we cannot imagine, or the risk of a handful of extremists who might try and might succeed in committing violence against us. And even if they did, is that an unreasonable cost?
Yes, we can throw up our protests of safety, but in doing so we run the risk of creating yet more enemies where we might have made friends. Moreover, we reject Jesus, who called us to do the opposite.
Let me say that more clearly: following Jesus is not the safe path. Ask the crucified Christ. Ask the executed Paul. Ask Peter, who was crucified upside down. Ask Dirk Willems (d. 1569), who as he was escaping from prison from a charge of heresy, stopped to rescue one of his pursuers who had fallen through the ice of a frozen pond, saving the man’s life. Willems was recaptured and burned at the stake.
Do we want to take the safe road, or do we want to follow Jesus? I know my answer. What’s yours?