“Jesus.” For three and a half years the name inspired hope, love, warmth, and gratitude, but literally overnight that name suddenly became charged with political implications. He was wrongly labeled a threat to the nation, and popular opinion turned against Him to the point that, caught up in the crowd mentality, the very mention of the name incited instant anger — and the majority deemed Him worthy of death. Believing they were doing what was best for the nation, they willingly murdered the Savior.
“Refugees." For 34 of the 35 years I have been working with them, the word has inspired love, compassion, empathy, generosity, and the most positive and unselfish of human impulses, but almost overnight that word has suddenly become charged with political implications. Refugees have been incorrectly labeled a threat to the nation, and popular opinion has turned against them, to the point that many are willing to reason away the most basic principles of our faith — and disenfranchise them from the most pointed commands of Scripture to not only “love your neighbor as yourself” (Matt. 19:19), but to “love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you” (Matt. 5:44, NKJV).
If the fact that this article is about refugees raises your adrenaline level and incites a combative spirit in your heart, I certainly understand, given the political air we breathe. But I invite you to take a moment now to prayerfully surrender those feelings to God.
What I am about to say is not about politics. It is about the plan of salvation. It is not about national pride. It is about spiritual humility. It is not about what our government should do. It is about what you and I should do as followers of Jesus. It is not about protecting your children for a few short years on this earth. It is about instilling in them a love that is stronger than death, the only principle that will outlast all governments and fit them for a place in God’s eternal kingdom of love.
We are living in a pivotal moment of earth’s history, a moment which, if we are in tune with God and what He is about to do, and are available for Him to use, we will have the privilege of being part in one of the most phenomenal and far-reaching events: the lighting of the whole earth with His glory. Imagine actually reaching the 2.9 billion people (43 percent of the world population) who live in ethno-linguistic groups that have no Christian influence with the everlasting gospel — in our lifetime!
But the enemy is intent on blinding the very elect to the humble means God has chosen to accomplish His great work. We, like God’s chosen people of old, are in danger of rejecting the very people He has sent to help us.
The burden on my heart is that God will help us to look a little higher (see Isa. 55:8, 9), from the seen to the unseen, from the temporal to the eternal, that we will see God’s eternal purpose for us in this crucial moment of earth’s history.
Ellen G. White writes that “if we were quick in discerning the opening providences of God, we should be able to see in the multiplying opportunities to reach many foreigners in America a divinely appointed means of rapidly extending the third angel's message into all the nations of earth. God in His providence has brought men to our very doors and thrust them, as it were, into our arms, that they might learn the truth, and be qualified to do a work we could not do in getting the light before men of other tongues” (Review and Herald, Oct. 29, 1914).
Prayerfully consider that refugees and immigrants are “the stone the builders rejected” of our day. Our attitude and actions toward refugees will go down in history as our attitude toward Jesus Himself.
When Jesus comes to separate the sheep from the goats, He will not ask what you thought our national policies should have been on immigration. He will remind us what we each — personally — did or did not do for the stranger.
Terri Saelee is coordinator of the Adventist Refugee and Immigrant Ministries for the North American Division.