“In His free grace, God is for man in every respect; He surrounds man from all sides. He is man's Lord who is before him, above him, after him, and thence also with him in history, the locus of man's existence.”Karl Barth
What does it mean to be displaced geographically, spiritually and emotionally? This is the question millions of Syrians are facing amidst that country’s devastating refugee crisis. Since 2011, some 11 million Syrians have been fleeing the turmoil caused by conflict among the government regime, the Free Syrian Army and various secular and Islamist factions. Families are fleeing their homes and risking their lives to sojourn into surrounding countries. News headlines are littered with one devastating testimony after another of failure and loss. Meanwhile, many surrounding countries have taken a stance of spurning and dismissal toward the refugees. There is a deep wave of yearning across the globe for justice.
In the face of all this, at least one country has emphatically welcomed refugees from Syria. Germany not only welcomes them, but offers housing, financial aid and education. “Germany will be able to take in 500,000 refugees a year for a few years," an official said this week, meaning Germany will be accepting more asylum seekers than any other European country. Those desperate for safety are finding solace in a country greeting them with open arms, despite the potential toll.
Germany’s actions remind us of a God who incurred the cost of redemption upon Himself.
As I watched the amiability of Germany toward the refugees, I found myself stricken with inspiration and conviction. I asked myself, as a Christian, “How often do I subtly backhand the displaced and cast-aside in my own life?” As I read the stories about Germany’s acceptance of the refugees I was drawn toward the parallels I saw in the Gospel. I found two truths immediately apparent.
First, as Barth aptly reminds us, “in His free grace, God is for man in every respect.” As people purchased with Christ’s blood, we have been welcomed as sons and daughters. The reality of our former life is that we were refugees displaced from God. We formerly sought refuge in the dismal and lackluster shelters of this world. Yet we were emphatically welcomed into the family of God with open arms. As the old hymn says, “Christ has regarded my helpless estate and has shed His own blood for my soul.” God knew our helplessness and purchased us anyway. As such, there is room in God’s family for the displaced. More, as Stephanie Summers reminds us in TC’s series on immigration reform, “Jesus’ consistent mercy towards citizens of other nations is the baseline of the motivation for Christian concern toward immigration…” As Christians, we must have at the forefront of our worldview a God that is for all people at every turn.
Second, God’s acceptance is free. As other countries see the potential burden of accepting Syrian refugees, Germany’s actions remind us of a God who incurred the cost of redemption upon Himself. God did not hesitate to send His Son for our sake. As we consider how to greet refugees, we must remember that our acceptance into God’s kingdom cost us nothing, and cost Jesus everything. God invites us into His mission: a mission to love the unloved, accept the rejected and give residence to the displaced. We must posture our hearts as our Father postures His heart toward the world.