We sit in their living room on mismatched chairs and smile at one another trying to determine what we are all trying to say to one another. Their bright teeth shine beautiful out from their dark, warm African skin. They speak Swahili. We speak English. We laugh at what we cannot understand and hope that each of us will one day know one another.
They fled Democratic Republic of Congo sometime this last year and came to America only a month ago, thankfully with other families. Fear of fighting is what I understand. I ask the father in English and make guns with my fingers. “Did you leave because of war?” He doesn’t understand. “Did you leave because of fighting?” Guns pointing. He nods yes.
These refugees have run from what all refugees run from: fear of persecution, fear for their lives and their children’s lives, fear that all will be taken from them. They come here for shelter and safety.
However, in this case, they are Catholic. We share the same God. We speak the same spiritual language. We know the same Savior.
If we didn’t share the same God, would that mean I didn’t want to know them? No, but in light of the knowledge that we are facing the ever-increasing fact that Muslims, by the thousands, are coming either as immigrants or refugees, we have some thinking to do.
This post isn’t about whether or not we should welcome the refugee, the lost, the wanderer. I dare not challenge my Lord’s directive. This post is more about these questions:
- Is the church ready?
Is she ready for the months and months it takes to help a refugee family implant in our culture? Ready to help them shop, learn the language, go to school, ride the bus, find a job? Is she already partnering with the agencies that do this? Does she understand the undertaking? Is everyone ready for the long haul? Because it is a long haul.
It’s more than welcome banners and hugs at the airport.
- Has she already done the work of engaging immigrants, refugees, the lost, the wanderer, the displaced, the lonely?
- Is her compassion for the Syrians an extension of the compassion she has already shown to those here? In many cases, I’m sure it is.
But more than this, are we ready for the spiritual implications of spiritually open borders?
Islam is not a religion that is the same as Christianity. Neither is Buddhism, or Hinduism, or Animism. They do not serve the same God, and in fact, serve a false god. This kind of false religion will bring with it strongholds and demonic powers that can, and will, influence us if we are not both intellectually and spiritually ready and equipped, in the Spirit and in the Word, to open our arms, homes, churches, and country to more and more false religions.
This is not to say we do not do such things as make friends with Muslims, or engage in our neighborhoods with Muslims. What we must understand is that while we find it heartwarming to be able to engage as a community, even move beyond acquaintances to friendships, there is an entire iceberg of cultural differences, an entire worldview, underneath our warm hellos and friendly dinners together.
Above the waterline of our deeply entrenched worldview we find the easiest cultural differences to overcome. They, and any other refugee or immigrant, will come see how we interact, what we eat, how we sound, what we smell like, what is considered rude, what is considered to be gratitude. On and on there are things that are considered to be “above the waterline.”
Below the waterline is a giant iceberg of differences. Values and beliefs that will not, and cannot, be compromised are buried deep in all of us. There are ingrained cultural habits that will not be moved nor changed. There are spiritual DNA strands unchangeable unless touched by the Holy Spirit. The worldview of the American Christian and the worldview of the Hindu, the Buddhist, the animist, the atheist, or the Muslims will clash and rip at one another under the waterline. What I value as deeply embedded beliefs about God, humanity, the heart and soul of a man, salvation, the afterlife, war, ancestors, and the future lies under the waterline.
As does theirs.
Are we even remotely ready, spiritually and prayerfully ready, for our icebergs to glide together in close proximity? Do we have the spiritual fortitude to pray against the evil attached to the false religions? Do we understand the gravity of the war we wage in the heavenlies when we so passionately want to welcome those who are fleeing to our country?
And welcome them we should.
Shrewdly, and in love.
Jesus, when he sent out the disciples told them to be “shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves.” (Matthew 10.)
As I read the posts and the blogs about whether or not we welcome the refugee, I actually want to sit with everyone, look at the ones who are saying, “Mercy! Love! Welcome!” and say “YES!” And I want to sit with the ones saying, “Pause! Wait! Think! Prepare!” and say “YES!”.
It is yes to all.
Yes to love.
Yes to open arms.
Yes to helping, serving, housing and sheltering.
Yes to prepare, be patient, understand, study, pray…deeply pray.
It will take all the the Body of Christ to show Christ to the nations. It is His heart’s passion that all men come to the only name that will save them. It is is intention that the manifold wisdom of God be made known by and through His church. In our love for one another, they will see we are Christians. It is not our love for them that prove that we are Christians, it is our love for one another.
We must stop the fighting, and come together and unite. Not because “they” are coming, but they are already here! There is no good purpose in fighting. Humility is the way. We must unite in love, hope, mercy, prayer, intelligence, resources, strength, and spiritual preparedness for what we are so quickly wanting to happen and so ready to open our hearts and lives to. We must work together, prepare together, and most importantly, pray together.
This is no game. For our battle is not against flesh and blood, but “against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places.” (Eph. 6)
As we welcome, we must also be prepared to fight in the heavenlies in prayer. Protect your home in prayer, not by locking your doors (unless you’re threatened). Be the hands and feet of Jesus. Be the mouthpiece of the Gospel. Be the light of the World. Be the enemy’s greatest nightmare. We are ready to be welcomers. It’s in us because Christ is in us. Let us prepare ourselves for the work.
“Pray in the Spirit at all times and on every occasion. Stay alert and be persistent in your prayers for all the believers everywhere.” Eph. 6