Since American soldiers rolled into Afghanistan in October 2001, I have had a heart for the people of the Middle East. I would lay awake, late at night watching live footage of the soldier’s progress as they entered Afghanistan and started fighting against the terrorists of that country. I was 14 years old at the time and as I watched, I prayed for the people, both the soldiers and those who were innocent.
I am an American, and this was the start of the War on Terror, after the terror attacks on September 11, 2001. You might assume I would not care about Afghani or Iraqi civilians. If you assume that, please read this: I care about the men and women there. My heart breaks and my heart goes out to those whose lives have been destroyed by the 16 years of war they have endured in those countries. As an American veteran, I care more because I have seen what war has done to my friends and fellow soldiers, and I know how much it has impacted the citizens of those countries.
There are many refugees coming to the United States and European countries from the Syrian conflict and the continuing uncertainty and unrest in Iraq and Afghanistan. Others are from countries surrounding those where ISIS has terrorized villages. While there are many conflicting thoughts and different viewpoints surrounding the refugees, there are many refugees who are already in the United States. We don’t have to travel to the Middle East to love on those who are refugees.
Jesus tells the story of the good Samaritan in Luke 10:25-37 (New International Version):
25 On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?”
26 “What is written in the Law?” he replied. “How do you read it?”
27 He answered, “‘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.’”
28 “You have answered correctly,” Jesus replied. “Do this and you will live.”
29 But he wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”
30 In reply Jesus said: “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he was attacked by robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead. 31 A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. 32 So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. 33 But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. 34 He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, brought him to an inn and took care of him. 35 The next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper. ‘Look after him,’ he said, ‘and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.’
36 “Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?”
37 The expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him.”
Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.”
The Samaritan people and the Jewish people were not friends. There was animosity between them. Jesus used this story to show how he wants us to love, not just those of our nationality, but everyone. He showcased a story of how love is an action, not just a feeling. Loving our brothers, sisters, mom and dad, and even loving our friends is important and easy most of the time. But what about loving and caring for those who are refugees? Those who are already here and who need to have help acclimating to living in a new country, new climate and dealing with animosity from fellow Americans?
What does love got to do with it? If we want to love like Jesus, we need to actually love like Him, and that means loving our family, our friends and neighbors. But that also means loving the refugees, no matter what our political, religion or war views are.
Because Jesus’ love is a verb, how do we act out his love in a practical way? My mom is a great example of this. When I was young, in the early 90’s, my mom helped a local Somali refugee woman get to the grocery store and figure out what to buy with the money she had. Maybe doing something like this is not possible for the area you live, but there may be some other options for you if you want to show love.
- Find local organizations to partner with in your local area. Visit the Refugee Council online at http://www.rcusa.org/state-refugee-profiles/ for locations.
- If you own an Airbnb, rent out to refugees who cannot find a place to live.
- Donate to reputable organizations who support refugees in the United States or Europe.
- Collect donations at your workplace or church to give to those who need clothing or other items.
- If you’re a counselor or mental health professional, offer services for free or at a reduced rate. Many refugees have post-traumatic stress disorder from what they have seen and gone through. They need counseling services to help them work through the emotions, thoughts and feelings.
Scripture taken from Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.