I see the current debate over whether to accept Syrian refugees as being similar to the story of the adulterous woman in John 8. The Jews brought to Jesus a “woman caught in adultery” and tested Him to see whether He would abide by the Law of Moses that said to stone such individuals (John 8:1-5). This was a multilayered problem that any one of us would have had difficulty reconciling had we been in Jesus’ sandals. The problem was 3-fold:
First, there was the hypocrisy of the Pharisees. Where was the man who was caught in adultery? If a woman was caught in the act, they could have caught the man as well. While we don’t know all the circumstances, we do know that the Pharisees were not concerned about the law or the woman. They were only concerned with making Jesus look bad. The Pharisees needed to be shown their hypocrisy.
Second, Jesus had to satisfy the demands of the law. Deut 22:22-24 explicitly says that adultery was to be punished by stoning; both the man and the woman. The law had to be met and satisfied. Jesus could not undo the law, disobey the law, or discourage others to disobey the law.
Third, Jesus had a desire to show compassion to this woman as He did to all who are in sin. This characteristic, among others, is what attracted people to Jesus. He could no less practice this quality than He could deny His own character. He is the great High Priest who can sympathize with our weaknesses (Heb 4:15).
If I had faced this dilemma, I don’t know what I would have done. I’ve tried to imagine what I would have done and because I don’t know what I would have done I can only marvel at what Jesus said. And Jesus said the following – John 8:7b – “He who is without sin among you, let him be the first to throw a stone at her.” With this statement, Jesus solved all 3 problems.
First, He firmly exposed the hypocrisy of the situation. Not one single Pharisee had a right to stand in condemnation of this woman because they were just as sinful as she was. Second, John 8:8-9 reveals that they began to go out one by one. With this response, Jesus was able to satisfy the demands of the law because Deut 17:6-7 says that a person could only be put to death on the basis of 2 or 3 witnesses. Third, this put Jesus in a position where He could show the woman mercy as no witnesses remained that were willing to be the executioners – John 8:11b – “I do not condemn, either. Go. From now on sin no more.”
In regards to the refugee crisis, we likewise have a complex problem with multiple layers.
First, there is hypocrisy in the leadership of our nation. We have thousands upon thousands of homeless veterans that are already here and are receiving little to no attention by this same administration. Islamic refugees are receiving preferential treatment while Christian refugees are being thrown to the lions. And it has been shown time and again that our president will only appeal to biblical standards insofar as it satisfies his personal, political agenda.
Second, Christians are right to have genuine concern for the safety of our nation. Psa 82:4 – “Rescue the weak and needy; deliver them out of the hand of the wicked.” Our wives and our children cannot protect themselves from the hatred and violence that radical Islamic terrorists are attempting to bring to our nation. It has already been proven that ISIS is infiltrating refugee programs worldwide. Based on their hatred for our nation, it is a certifiable fact they are attempting to do the same to us.
Third, every Christian should have a desire to show compassion to men, women, and children who are weak and homeless, and that includes foreign refugees. Isa 1:17 – “Learn to do good; seek justice, reprove the ruthless, defend the orphan, plead for the widow.” If we can give the broken and downtrodden a chance to start over here in America by giving them a home free from the oppression they’ve experienced in the Middle East, we should do so. This also affords Christians evangelistic opportunities otherwise unavailable.
I know that if Jesus were here, He would have the solution. He already knows the solution. But I also believe that since He has left us the bible and that it is able to equip us for “every good work” (2 Tim 3:16), the solution is at our fingertips if we will search for it. Until we find that solution, though, I would caution all Christians to be careful about making this an issue that drives a wedge in our relationship with one another. If you choose to use social media to parade compassion at the expense of homeland safety or homeland safety at the expense of compassion, you’re setting yourself up for a fall. The issue is difficult and we’re all trying to work it out.
Let us continue to discuss the topic patiently, respectfully, and prayerfully. Let us never be driven by fear. And while we are to be as harmless as doves, let us remember to be as wise as serpents (Matt 10:16).