Over my little life-time of walking with Jesus I have begged for His compassion for the lost and His mercy for the church instead of my naturally selfish heart.
I don’t pretend to know the answers to the world’s questions that are arising and the impending trials that I think we will all face soon enough. But I wanted to share some stories that have opened my little worldview over the last year.
Fear grows to hate -
Many Iraqi Refugees who are believers have told me that Christ has become their everything. In most of their stories they share that they were religious - going to church on holiday’s - but they never really knew God. Many times they followed religion to avoid shame or out of fear. Yet when they were confronted with the convert or die message from the “You know who”… they knew God was real and wouldn’t convert instead they fled. When they came here… it was the first time many of them heard about this relationship with God. The first time they really “met with God” and now they are so hungry to know Him not just about Him. Some of them even thank God for the trials they have gone through because they have brought them to truly finding Him... the source of life and joy despite the hard circumstance.
When I spend time with them and I hear their stories of faith through persecution… I feel so humbled. I know many of them for the first time are reading the Bible and understanding God’s heart.
Most of the Iraqi believers who I am talking about are afraid though. Many of them will pray for the “You know who” that has persecuted them and is persecuting and hurting others now. But they are afraid of any person of the Majority faith here (M). They were told since they were children not to talk to M people. That all M people hate them and want to kill them.
I can see why they would be afraid, they have seen the “You know who” and other extremist groups kill their family members and neighbors. When we talk about loving the (M) people there is a bit of disgust and hatred in their heart. I think it started with fear and a little bitterness and that grew to a hate for not just the “You know who” but ever person that is an (M) … their hate is surrounded by fear …. This is something only God can change.
I have never faced what they have faced, yet many believers have and have had the faith and strength to love their enemies even while they are being persecuted ....even being burned at the stake… that strength only comes only from God.
Jesus loved even on the cross…He said… “forgive them for they know not what they do.”
From comments I read and notes we get sometimes, I can see the fear rising up in believers everywhere…. My prayer is that fear does not let hate get a foothold…but instead turns to fearing only one… and that is God… that fear is the beginning of wisdom.
When we put our trust in God and not in chariots…etc. and fear Him and His commands only….. our perspective changes… when we look at people through His eyes….. our compassion rises… a compassion so great that would have us love all people even our enemies… this is a work that He can only do in our hearts.
But even if you should suffer for what is right, you are blessed. “Do not fear their threats; do not be frightened.” 1 Peter 3:14
There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love. 1 John 4:18
“But to you who are listening I say: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, 28 bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. 29 If someone slaps you on one cheek, turn to them the other also. If someone takes your coat, do not withhold your shirt from them. 30 Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back. 31 Do to others as you would have them do to you.
32 “If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners love those who love them.33 And if you do good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners do that.34 And if you lend to those from whom you expect repayment, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, expecting to be repaid in full. 35 But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. 36 Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful. Luke 6:27-36
Everyone needs to see His love in action -
We have also been in the homes of many Syrians/(M) people. Most of their stories are similar … their poverty and lack of help is even greater than Iraqi I have seen.
They fled because the “You know who” was bombing their cities, destroying their homes, and business, raping their daughters and wives, kidnapping their children. They too left everything behind and find themselves here in-between but with less help than the Iraqis because there are more of them and few organizations to help them. They too are religious out of fear and to avoid shame. Both Iraqi Christians and Syrians would say that they are born into their religion.
Many Syrians are at a crisis point. Every one I have visited… do not want to kill me… they are desperately fleeing the evil “You know who” and looking for safe place to call home. They are desperate to see His love.
People are so valuable. As I think about all of my friends here - Iraqi, Syrian, Jordanian, Egyptian… they are each so special to our God. He created them and has been pursing them since their first breath, He knows the hairs on their heads.. He knows the secret fears in their hearts, the sadness, the joy, He loves them each.
Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others. Phil. 2:3-4
As an American I have never seen war up close. I have never had to leave everything I know - my home, family without ever coming back or knowing if and when I will see them again. I have never been at that point where there was nothing to feed my children. Or had to sleep on the streets. Or had to ask for a blanket because I didn’t have the money to buy one. I have never seen someone killed in front of me, or been shot at. Or not been able to provide for my family because I was not allowed to work in the country I was in. I have never been a refugee.
After talking and spending time with my dear friends here that are refugees…. I realize more and more that I don’t know what it would be like to lose all of that.
A few weeks ago for the first time ever we were minorly persecuted. Some kids threw rocks at our community center van full of kids. They had been causing trouble for a while. They threatened our boys with a stick in their hands (our sweet friendly boys had no idea since all they can say is “what’s your name?” in Arabic... they were trying to make friends with them). The police took care of the problem but it felt different to be pointed out for our faith… I never really felt that before. The last few weeks we have realized the kids are really just bored street kids with alcoholic fathers and busy moms. They were showing hate because that is what they had felt.
Last week with a team here doing the medical clinic we had the opportunity to show love to their families and my kids played with these same street boys for 2 days straight. They really needed love and attention and it was so fun to be able to give it to them.
It made me think maybe some of these “You know who” were just little kids that knew not love. What if they instead were shown the love and attention that we all need?
I do know that God loves all people and I joy in opportunities to show people this Love that God gives so freely.
What good is it, dear brothers and sisters, if you say you have faith but don’t show it by your actions? Can that kind of faith save anyone? Suppose you see a brother or sister who has no food or clothing, and you say, “Good-bye and have a good day; stay warm and eat well,” but then you don’t give that person any food or clothing. What good does that do? So you see faith by itself isn’t enough. Unless it produces good deeds, it is dead and useless. James 2:14-17
We are here because Christ’s love compels us.
For Christ's love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died. 2nd Corinthians 5:14
We show love because that is what He does and we are joining Him in what He is doing.
Go here to see practical ways you might show love to refugees...