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Sunday, November 6, 2016

Outward Signs, Inner Wisdom and Refuges

More and more wisdom is needed to navigate wisely through the culture and have godly insight into controversial issues. One of these "hot topics" today is that of immigration of refugees from Syria and other Middle Eastern countries. Some want to close our borders and protect America from terrorism. Others say we should be American and welcome them as The Statue of Liberty proclaims embracing the tired masses under her wing. So what would Jesus do? He told us to be "as shrewd as snakes but as innocent as doves" ( Matthew 10:16). So how do we do that?

            To answer that question let's just take a step back into time for a moment when the Israelites were encamped in the desert having fled Egypt. They were a migrating mass of humanity. Though not immediately looking to step  into a country, they had to rely on God for food, water and  clothing and their shoes not wearing out after 40 years! But they also relied on  God for how they encamped (see Numbers 2-3) and when they moved. "On the day the tabernacle, the tent of the covenant law, was set up, the cloud covered it. From evening till morning the cloud above the tabernacle looked like fire.  That is how it continued to be; the cloud covered it, and at night it looked like fire. Whenever the cloud lifted from above the tent, the Israelites set out; wherever the cloud settled, the Israelites encamped.
At the Lord’s command the Israelites set out, and at his command they encamped" (Number 9: 15-18).

            How incredible would that be if God gave us such a tangible sign when we are trying to make decisions! But Jesus gave us clear guidelines to live our life, which gives us direction. The most notable is what He called the greatest commandment, not suggestion. " He(Jesus) said “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself’” (Luke 10:27). He also answered the question of who is our neighbor in the parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10) in which Jesus basically said that anyone can be our neighbor, even our enemy. 

            He took it one step further and added “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor] and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you (Matthew 5: 42-44). It certainly appears that Jesus is directing us to love those who are foreigners, immigrants and even those who persecute us, like ISIS! You might be saying right now " Stop right there!" God doesn't require that we love evil! Okay, I know it sounds extreme because the balance to that is that we are to hate evil and I agree. We are to hate anything that has lifted itself above God. Yet our target should be Satan and his demonic hordes, not people. Here's where wisdom  needs to be applied. Let me take an example from my own life.

            A few years ago I thought we should  hate ISIS because they were slaughtering and beheading Christians, but then  the Lord revealed to me that I should be loving them by praying them into the kingdom, and so I began to pray for them, attend conferences held by former Muslims who are Christians and read books about them. Though persecution is on the rise there are stories of Muslims and even terrorists who have come to know Jesus. In addition, I have learned more about how they truly think and who they are, but still questions remain as to how we as Christians are to deal with them here in America.

            Does that mean we are to embrace them to the point where we allow terrorists to easily come into the United States? No, we are to be as wise as serpents. We must use wisdom in allowing in refuges, but we should love them and pray for them. Does loving them also include allowing some of them who have gone through the vetting process to come into the U. S.? Yes, I believe that is what Jesus would have us do. If the U.S. clears them and they come into our communities we need to extend the hand of Christ, which might look different for each one of us.

            But I do not think we should fear them. God tells us to trust Him, for "perfect love drives out fear"( 1 John 4:18). Fear is the enemy of our soul and robs us of peace. Remember it is the true peacemakers who shall be called children of God (Matt. 5:9). Jesus takes it yet another step further and warns us not to fear the one who can take away our mortal life, such as persecutors and terrorists, but to fear losing eternal life. Fear or reverence God who imparts eternal life as a free gift to those who believe. If we love God above all else, He will impart wisdom to all of the issues we face today. Though He doesn't often  give us tangible signs of His presence such as a cloud, He does give us wisdom which guides us and peace, which can be visible to others. Let's then go out into the world as the Lord commanded, both shrewd and innocent--a perfect blend of both which will make a visible difference in the world!