What about those who are anti-refugee?

The night my high school youth ministry discussed refugees, one of our final questions was, “How else can we show mercy to refugees?”

After wrestling with this question for a while, one student quietly and courageously asked, “Everything we've said so far is for people who don't support President Trump's immigration ban. What about those who do? How are we supposed to react to them? Are we just supposed to condemn them?”

It was a poignant moment.

I firmly believe refugees are not controversial. It's an issue Scripture seems pretty clear about. As Leviticus 19:33-34 says, “When an alien resides with you in your land, you shall not oppress the alien. The alien who resides with you shall be to you as the citizen among you; you shall love the alien as yourself, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God.”

It's easy for me to show mercy to refugees.

It's much harder for me to show mercy to those who condemn refugees.

Yet, those people are also my neighbor and as such, we are called to show them mercy – not condemnation.

The question is how?

Showing mercy to those who support President Trump's immigration policies means not condemning them. It means asking questions to find out why they believe what they do and genuinely listening to what they say, without trying to refute every fact they offer. You can't argue someone into a different belief.

Showing mercy to our neighbors who are anti-refugee means sharing YOUR story with them. While facts are often not helpful for those who already have their minds made up about refugees, sharing why you care about refugees is.

Showing mercy to our neighbors who are anti-refugee means introducing them to refugees. Many people who are anti-refugee simply don't know any refugees. So they “other” them, reducing them to the worst stereotypes that exist about them. That makes it easy to fear them. In contrast, when you introduce people to refugees, you humanize them. You put a face to a statistic. You plant the seeds for a relationship that can be transformational for all involved.

In John 13:35, Jesus tells his disciples, “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”

Love for one another... Not just love for those who agree with you.

In an increasingly divided nation, it would be revolutionary if we had the courage to truly love people.

Refugees, yes.

But also those who support anti-refugee legislation.

Jen Bradbury on Youth Ministry

Jen serves as the director of youth ministry at Faith Lutheran Church in Glen Ellyn, Illinois. A veteran youth worker, Jen holds an MA in Youth Ministry Leadership from Huntington University. Jen is the author of The Jesus Gap: What Teens Actually Believe about Jesus (The Youth Cartel), The Real Jesus (The Youth Cartel), Unleashing the Hidden Potential of Your Student Leaders (Abingdon), and the forthcoming A Mission That Matters (Abingdon). Her writing has also appeared in YouthWorker Journal, Immerse, and The Christian Century. Jen is also the Assistant Director of Arbor Research Group where she has led many national studies. When not doing ministry or research, she and her husband, Doug, and daughter, Hope, can be found traveling and enjoying life together.

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