Tom Terry has served on the mission field for thirty years in difficult, high-pressure situations. Here is his unique perspective on the Syrian refugee crisis.
“I have only a few random thoughts about the Syrian refugee crisis. My perspective is not political, rather, it is missional. While I understand that ISIS fighters could be entering the States posing as refugees, I think there are larger things at stake. For my purposes, this post address believers in Jesus Christ and how we, as a faith community, respond to the refugee crisis.
(1) Eighty-seven percent of people in the Muslim world have not only never heard the Gospel, but have never even met a Christian. Do we want our first impression to them to be one of rejection?
(2) The Muslim world views America as a Christian nation. Granted, that perception may not be accurate or without its problems, but the fact is that we must deal with them according to their perception. If we are a Christian nation, then what should be our Christian response to people who are fleeing war and starvation?
(3) There is a difference between dealing with things politically and militarily, or dealing with things missionally. As Christians we must always default to a missional view—it is the commandment of Christ. In addition, our national and a few state governments are making decisions to accept Syrian refugees. When there is nothing we can do about that reality we must make the best of the situation. And missionally speaking, the best we can do does not include protest. It must be outreaches of love and practicality coupled with the message of the Gospel of Jesus.
(4) Again, remember that I’m coming from a missional perspective. With that in mind, consider that more people from the Middle East could hear the Gospel from us through refugee status than would hear it in their war-torn nation. Do we really want to miss that opportunity? Isn’t the potential salvation of those thousands, or more, worth the risk?
(5) By refusing these refugees entry and pushing refugees to other Muslims countries we take the risk of even more Muslims being radicalized than before. People without hope will accept almost anything. I’d much rather see them here, hearing about Jesus, than see them there, being radicalized in another Muslim land.
It’s time for the church in America to step up. There is a huge opportunity before us to advance the Great Commission within the Muslim community in America through love and acceptance of refugees. Rejection will only foster more animosity and may even create more enemies. This isn’t political. This is missional—and being missional is the very heart of Jesus.”
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