by Mike Van Vranken
If the man in this picture came to our country claiming to be a displaced refugee fleeing persecution, would you vote to allow him to stay? I read that the Louvre Museum in Paris has offered to protect art treasures rescued from conflict-ridden countries such as Syria and Iraq. This is a great cultural service, but it causes me to ask: “What is more important to us than human beings?” How do we protect art and worldly artifacts, but not protect the treasure of the gift of life?
We say we don’t want to accept more refugees because it might allow terrorists to show up in our cities and towns. We do have a responsibility to protect our families, right? We fear that people that look like the man in the picture above might be suspect – they may harm us. What are we to do?
“If someone who has worldly means sees a brother in need and refuses him compassion, how can the love of God remain in him? Children, let us not love in word or speech but in deed and truth” 1 John 3:17-18. It’s pretty straight forward, isn’t it? No love for others means God’s love is not in us. And all the flowery talk of love means nothing if we don’t love others. Jesus himself gave us the story of the Good Samaritan; the hated Samaritan helped his enemy, the Jew. And of course, Jesus’ bottom line statement on such matters was: “whatever you did not do for one of these least ones, you did not do for me” Matthew 25:45. Not much ambiguity there.
Of course it may be hard to see Jesus in the man in the picture above. In my role as a Spiritual Director, I often ask people how they imagine Jesus. Very few of them portray him as the Middle Eastern man that he was. We all seem to see him as resembling ourselves. It’s easier for us to love someone who looks like we do. But, how can we protect art and worldly treasures and not people? How do we ignore human beings in trouble?
Maybe it’s not a lack of love and compassion. We all want to help others, don’t we? Perhaps it’s fear that restrains us from demanding that our country, and all other countries as well, welcome these 60 million refugees and offer them food, lodging and an atmosphere of Christian love. After all, this is a pro-life issue, isn’t it? But, we’re afraid we may give help to a terrorist. Or, we fear that too many refugees will destroy our ability to help the people who are already here. We even fear that this influx of humanity will hurt our economy. “But God did not give us a spirit of fear, but rather of power and love and self control” 2 Timothy 1:7. No, the fear does not come from God. But he does have a remedy. “Perfect love casts out fear” 1 John 4:18.
When we act in love, fear goes away. Then, we are free to believe, in faith, that God will protect us; that God will provide for us. Can we step out in faith and lovingly see Jesus in every human being to such an extent that we provide help to the needy and do it with no fear whatsoever? I believe God has promised us that we can.
I also believe when we act out of love, our eyes are opened so wide that we see Jesus in the ones we are loving. We become free to live the Gospel we preach. We destroy the shackles that hold us back. The Holy Spirit who lives within us can then go to work. We release his power, his anointing and his love on the world. Only then can our focus move from taking no action out of fear, to seeing and encountering the risen Jesus in ourselves and in everyone else.
The man in the picture above was my great, great uncle. He was a monk and a priest in Lebanon for almost 50 years. His name was Father Bechara Abou-Mourad, and he has been given the title “Servant of God,” which means that the cause for him to be canonized as a saint by the Church has been opened.
So, again, I ask: If the man in the picture came to our country claiming to be a displaced refugee fleeing persecution, would you vote to allow him to stay?
Mike is a writer, teacher, and co-author of the book, Faith Positive in a Negative World. You can contact him at www.mikevanvrankenministries.org