CHURCH LEADERS: A Prayer of Protest for the Church — Thy Kingdom Come

 

The current refugee crisis (the 65 million around the world, and the current discourse in the U.S.) has brought to the surface one of the hardest things about following Jesus—at least for me. As Christians, we believe that Jesus has already defeated evil, sin, and death. As Christians, we also know that evil, sin, and death still persist in the world. We often don’t acknowledge evil, but the scriptures are rife with passages about it—our battle is not against flesh and blood but against every evil thing we could imagine (Eph 6). As Christians we know that while Christ is victorious over evil, His victory over these things has not yet been fully realized or implemented at the present time. This is the classic question asked to pastors all over the world: ‘why do bad things happen to good people?.’ You can easily argue that refugees are good people fleeing the worst evil humanity has to offer. 
 
Our answer as pastors usually goes something like this. We know and believe that one day Christ will rule the new heaven and the new earth. He will wipe away every tear from our eyes. There will be no more death, mourning, crying, or pain. But we also know that this just rule has not yet started, that there is still suffering, pain, and injustice. In heaven, there will not be a refugee crisis. In heaven, the sanctity of all life will be protected. In heaven, those who are suffering will have their burdens put to ease. But that is not the case today. 
 
When Jesus taught us to pray, He took this hard reality head on. He taught us to pray, “Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”  It is a prayer acknowledging that things on earth are broken. It assumes the Christ follower will be up against some pretty evil things, and in light of this evil, be forced to pray that God would intervene.  With this acknowledgement, Jesus teaches us to implore God to bring about His kingdom—to literally bring heaven into our midst, in our day. Jesus taught us to pray, “God, things here are not right, they are not of you, please let there no longer be a discrepancy between what you want your Kingdom to look like and what the current realities are.” 
 
This is of course a prayer. But it is a prayer of protest. Protest is simply to cry out against something that is wrong and to advance what is right. God invites us to call out the things that are not right in the world—to let our light expose darkness—and to declare in prayer and in our public acknowledgement: God, lives are not being protected, born and unborn. God, people are fleeing their homes and not being protected. God, there are 65 million people that don’t have basic safety.  God, make this right, bring your Kingdom right now. 
 
Regardless of political views, it is safe to say that any follower of Jesus who does not see the problem of 65 million displaced people as evil in some way—and something the Church should address—is seriously lacking in understanding of what God has done for them and of God’s purpose in the world.

However, we know that the people of God in the Old Testament had to constantly be reminded that this was in fact something they should care about.  In the Old Testament, God called His prophets to speak directly to this suffering, pain, and injustice with boldness. The prophet Jeremiah was called by God to literally stand at the gate of the temple and declare that the Israelites change their ways and stop oppressing the foreigner, fatherless, or widow(Jeremiah 7:5-7). Zechariah issued the same call during the reign of foreign King Darius (Zechariah 7:10), and Ezekiel powerfully called out action that oppressed and mistreated the poor, denying justice(Ezekiel 22:29).
 
In the current climate, it is the role and responsibility of the Church to pray prayers of protest—pointing out and crying out about anything that is not of God’s Kingdom, and calling on Him to make it right.

Separating Fact from Fear in the Refugee Ban


[The following post was written by Tim Breene, CEO of World Relief.]

In today’s connected world, the rapid dispersion of half-truths—and even blatant lies—is disturbing. This is especially true as it relates to the discussion around the ban of refugees to the United States.

As Christians, we should care about this. If truth is malleable, the very foundation of our faith is undermined. The words of Saint Augustine, “Let every good and true Christian understand that wherever truth may be found, it belongs to his Master,” are often paraphrased to say “All truth is God’s truth.” Careless disregard for the truth should be unacceptable to us.

For some people, the refugee ban seems an assault on Christian and American values. As former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright put it so succinctly, “There is no fine print on the Statue of Liberty.” At the same time, others see the ban as eminently sensible and a necessary step to protect us from terrorists.

I don’t aim to impugn motives to one group or the other. People hold different views, and the right to those differences and the freedom to express them is not only part of our American tradition, but the very essence of what makes us unique as a nation.

However, what is important is that the opinions that shape government policy are based in truth.

When this administration says we don’t know who refugees are, is this true? When it focuses on the threat of terrorism, is it exaggerating risk and distorting our individual and collective judgment so that we deny those who deserve our compassion?

Experts can debate and disagree as to whether the ban will keep us safe or actually lead to further radicalization and increased risk. However, these are the indisputable facts about refugee admissions, and experts’ judgments need to be informed by them:

  1. The refugee admission process is the most thorough of all entry processes into the U.S.
  2. We do know who these refugees are. They go through a multi-step process that generally lasts anywhere between 18 months to 3 years, and includes fingerprinting, biometrics, retina scans, and multiple interviews by different agencies, including the United Nations, State Department contractors, and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. World Relief—the organization I lead that resettles refugees—receives a thorough biographic report compiled by the U.S. State Department on each refugee we receive before they enter the country.
  3. The effectiveness of the process is demonstrated by the fact that, of the roughly three million refugees admitted since 1980, none has ever killed a single American in a terrorist attack.
  4. The Cato Institute’s research puts the annual risk of a refugee-committed terrorist killing on U.S. soil at 1 in 3.6 billion.
  5. Nothing within this executive order would have prevented 9/11, nor the more recent attacks in San Bernardino or Orlando.
  6. At least 5,700 fewer persecuted Christians will be allowed to come to the U.S. as refugees in Fiscal Year 2017 than in Fiscal Year 2016 as a result of the order’s dramatic cut to the overall number of refugees allowed, despite the president’s stated concern for persecuted Christians.
  7. In the past decade, the U.S. has never received more than a fraction of one percent of the world’s refugees annually, and it has received more Christian refugees than those of any other faith background.
  8. Of the 19,324 Syrian refugees admitted to the U.S. since 2012, 47% have been children thirteen years of age or under, while just 13% have been men aged 21 through 40.

There are lots of opinions around these issues, but those are the hard facts. So, let me ask you, how afraid do you think we should be of this program? We cannot let fear overpower truth.

As a Christian, I do not believe Jesus died for us so that we could live comfortable lives behind walls, indifferent to the suffering of others. In fact, he explicitly modeled through his life radical compassion for the poor, the vulnerable, the stranger, and even for his enemies.

Today let us choose to do as he did—especially for those in desperate need. Let compassion and truth be our guide. Let us not succumb to fear any longer.


Tim Breene is the CEO of World Relief, a global humanitarian relief and development organization that stands with the vulnerable and partners with local churches to end the cycle of suffering, transform lives and build sustainable communities. With over 70 years of experience, World Relief has offices in the United States that specialize in refugee and immigration services, and works in 20 countries worldwide through disaster response, health and child development, economic development and peacebuilding.

 

 

UPDATED: 3 Things You Can Do Right Now to Show Support for Refugees

Over the past few days, we’ve seen an outpouring of responses to the resources we have provided on how to stand in solidarity with refugees. During this critical time, your efforts mean the world. Here’s an updated list of ways you can show support for refugees right now:


1. Advocate
Sign this petition expressing your support for refugees. Or call your elected officials on behalf of refugees at 1.866.940.2439.

2. Donate
Make a one-time donation or commit to $15/month to Unlock Hope.

3. Engage
Follow us on Instagram and Twitter and join the conversation.



How to Advocate on Behalf of Refugees

Your voice is needed now more than ever.

On Friday, January 27, the new presidential administration issued an executive order that suspends the Refugee Resettlement Program for 120 days, cuts the United States' current commitment to refugee arrivals by over half, and bans Syrian refugee arrivals for an indefinite period of time (with other nationalities potentially on the line).

We need an outpouring of signatures, calls, and emails to your elected officials to say that this is not OK.

Would you do the following 3 things?

1. Sign a petition.
Sign and share this petition expressing solidarity with refugees.

2. Contact elected officials.
Email your elected officials here and call your U.S. Senators and U.S. Representatives by dialing 1-866-940-2439. Once connected, you can share:

  • Your name, city, and state
  • Your support for the U.S. Refugee Resettlement Program
  • One or two reasons why you personally believe in welcoming refugees

Another great way to make your voice heard is by commenting on White House Facebook posts or submitting a message at whitehouse.gov/contact.

3. Use social media
Use the links below to tweet the following message to President Trump, The White House, and your senators and representatives.

My community stands with ALL refugees! The U.S. should continue to resettle #refugees! #wewelcomerefugees

Tweet @realDonaldTrump
Tweet @WhiteHouse
Tweet your senators
Tweet your representatives


Below, please watch a short video of Jenny Yang, World Relief VP of Advocacy and Policy, recorded shortly before last week's executive order.


Thank you for taking a stand at this critical time. Your voice is going to make a difference!


A Letter to President Trump on Executive Order on Refugees

Dear President Trump and Vice President Pence,

As evangelical Christians, we are guided by the Bible to be particularly concerned for the plight of refugees, individuals who have been forced to flee their countries because of the threat of persecution. Evangelical churches and ministries have long played a key role in welcoming, resettling, and assisting in the integration of refugees from various parts of the world. As such, we are troubled by the recent executive order temporarily halting refugee resettlement and dramatically reducing the number of refugees who could be considered for resettlement to the U.S.

The Bible teaches us that each person — including each refugee, regardless of their country of origin, religious background, or any other qualifier — is made in the Image of God, with inherent dignity and potential. Their lives matter to God, and they matter to us. While the U.S. has in recent years received only a fraction of 1 percent of the world’s refugees annually, we believe the refugee resettlement program provides a lifeline to these uniquely vulnerable individuals and a vital opportunity for our churches to live out the biblical commands to love our neighbors, to make disciples of all nations, and to practice hospitality.

Our faith also compels us to be concerned with the well-being of families. Most of the refugees admitted to the U.S. in recent years are family reunification cases, coming to join a relative already in the country. A temporary moratorium will unnecessarily delay families whose cases already have been screened and approved from being reunited.

We fully affirm the important role of the U.S. government in vetting and screening those considered for resettlement to our country; indeed, it is a God-ordained responsibility of government. However, the U.S. refugee resettlement program’s screening process is already extremely thorough — more intensive, in fact, than the vetting that is required of any other category of visitor or immigrant to our nation — and it has a remarkably strong record. While we are always open to improvements to our government’s screening process, we believe that our nation can continue to be both compassionate and secure.

We would ask that you reconsider these decisions, allowing for resettlement of refugees to resume immediately so that our churches and ministries can continue to live out our faith in this way.

We are praying for you and for all of those in positions of civil authority, that God would continue to grant you wisdom and guidance.

Respectfully,

Chad Hayward
CEO
Accord Network

Shirley V. Hoogstra
President
Council for Christian Colleges and Universities

Hyepin Im
President & CEO
Korean Churches for Community Development

Leith Anderson
President
National Association of Evangelicals

Rev. Dr. Samuel Rodriguez
President
National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference

Rev. Dr. Jo Anne Lyon
Ambassador
The Wesleyan Church

Tim Breene
CEO
World Relief

Richard Stearns
President
World Vision U.S.
 

Download PDF of this letter. 


Join us in urging Congress and local officials to end the moratorium and resume the resettlement of refugees as soon as possible. Sign the refugee petition now.