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How should Christians think about refugees?

A woman and children walk through Khazir refugee camp on April 15, 2017 near Mosul, Iraq.
A woman and children walk through Khazir refugee camp on April 15, 2017 near Mosul, Iraq. | Getty Images/Carl Court

The Church has become embroiled in the incredibly complex and divisive fight over immigration in this country, but an important truth has been largely lost in the debate — the biblical imperative to reach the lost with the good news of Jesus Christ.

In one of Jesus' last messages to his disciples, he gave them the Great Commission: “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore, go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely, I am with you always, to the very end of the age” (Matthew 28:18-20).

In the first century, missionaries like the Apostle Paul traveled the known world to reach the lost of other nationalities. Today, immigration has made millions of them our neighbors.

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Let me be perfectly clear: America should be able to protect its borders, limiting immigration to those who enter legally. Unfortunately, thousands a day cross our southern border illegally, straining our resources beyond the breaking point. And the vetting process, designed to keep terrorists and criminals out, is flawed even under normal circumstances.

My heart aches for refugees legally seeking asylum in the US — many of them persecuted Christians — who often have to wait years before asylum is granted, if at all.

And what about the refugees already here or heading toward our border? Don't we have a responsibility to share the Gospel with them and treat them with compassion, whether they enter the country legally or not?

The Bible stresses the need to show kindness to the “quartet of the vulnerable” — the poor, the immigrant, the widow, and the orphan. “If you aren't intensely concerned for the quartet of the vulnerable,” the late pastor and theologian Tim Keller said, “... it's a sign your heart is not right with God.”

The Church needs to use this issue as an opportunity to reach the lost for Christ — our priority above everything else — and let the government do its job of patrolling the border.

Matthew Soerens, national coordinator for Evangelical Immigration Table, put the issue in perspective at a recent panel discussion in Houston. “We're asking, 'How do we first think about immigration policy as evangelical Christians before considering it as Republicans or Democrats?’” he told

A moral question this important should never become a political one for the Church.

Or a racial one for that matter. That's why former President Donald Trump's remarks that illegal immigrants are "poisoning the blood of our country" were so unfortunate. Acts 17:26 says God made from “one blood every nation.”

Acts 1:8 says God's people should share the Gospel everywhere, with people next door, people in other cities, and people in Samaria, even though the Jews considered Samaritans unclean. The Book of Matthew lists Ruth, Rahab, and Bathsheba (Uriah's wife), all foreigners, in the genealogy of Jesus.

So, the issue is not the strangers among us, but how we lead them, care for them, feed them, love them, and teach them.

The Gospel changes lives — on earth and in eternity.

Dr. Jalil Dawood, who came to America from Iraq and is now a US citizen, is the founder of World Refugee Care and the pastor of the Arabic Church of Dallas.

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