“I wondered if there are other restless people asking the question with me: What if Jesus meant the stuff he said?”
– Shane Claiborne
Dear church, we owe Syria an encounter with the God of love and justice. It’s time to return the favor. You see, the transfiguration happened right there. It was on Mount Hermon where Jesus shined like the sun and the voice of the Father was heard saying, “This is my beloved son… listen to him.” Next to Jesus was Moses (representing the law) and Elijah (representing the prophets) but it was clear that the ultimate message that God wanted us to pay attention to was the “loving your enemies, turn the other cheek and pray for heaven on earth” that Jesus was speaking of.
Syria heard the good news from the mouth of God. Now, they need to hear it again.
Also, one of the greatest men who ever lived, met Jesus in Syria. It was on the road to Damascus where the terrorist Saul became the Apostle Paul, and it was a Syrian man who healed his blindness and prepared him for ministry.
Syria saw the light of the Lord. Now, they need to see it again.
Elizabeth Dias wrote in Time Magazine that, “The Syrian region was also second only to Jerusalem in importance for Christianity’s initial growth. The church in Antioch of Syria—a city 60 miles west of Aleppo —became a refuge for early Christians fleeing persecution in Jerusalem after Stephen, the first martyr of Christianity, was stoned to death. Paul made Antioch his headquarters for his famous missionary journeys. Some scholars believe that Antioch was where the Gospel of Matthew was written, and the book of Acts notes that Antioch was the first place where the disciples were called ‘Christians.'”
Yes, we owe them.
I know as a Biblical fact that Jesus cares about this beautiful land and these beautiful people. He proved it not with words but action. “So his fame spread throughout all Syria, and they brought him all the sick, those afflicted with various diseases and pains, those oppressed by demons, those having seizures, and paralytics, and he healed them.” (Matthew 4:24)
What would Jesus do? Well, here’s an actual Bible verse telling us what he would do and where he would do it. This Jesus (the one we call Lord and Savior) was famous in Syria because of his healing, his deliverance and his care for the oppressed.
Now, it’s time for the Body of Christ to do the same.
I know it’s tempting to look away… but we must face images like these. And we must respond.
In this ongoing (and ungodly) civil war, more than 400,000 Syrians have been killed. As of December 2016, 4.81 million Syrians have fled the country and 6.3 million people are displaced internally. This is a conflict that has destroyed homes, burned children to dust and ruined the future of a whole generation.
Yesterday, many Syrians, including children, died (some writhing, choking, gasping or foaming at the mouth) after breathing in poison that possibly contained a nerve agent or other banned chemicals, according to doctors, rescue workers and witnesses.
How is this still happening with so many of us Christians alive today? How are we still talking (and enduring) wars like this in 2017? As Brian Zahnd wrote in A Farewell to Mars,
“Understanding Jesus as the Prince of Peace who transcends idolatrous nationalism and overcomes the archaic ways of war is an imperative the church must at last begin to take seriously.”
Yes, the story of our faith has roots in Syria, and at the present moment, the Syrian people need our faith. Not the faith that gets us saved, rich and blessed. But the faith Jesus actually preached. The one that loves others more than itself. The one where it is better to give than to receive. Where taking up your cross and following Jesus means dying for your enemies instead of killing them (as Jesus did).
I believe that the Road to Damascus Experience is part of the spiritual inheritance of all Syrians. The law says to keep them out. To punish them for the sins of their fathers. To despise them and leave them to sort out their own mess.
Jesus said different Jesus says different.
Jesus is God.
And he should always get our vote.
We are believers of a way that is above patriotism, comfort and human nature. Our distinctive is holiness and compassion; it’s beauty and self-sacrifice… It is the cross and the resurrection.
The images of this humanitarian crisis have been brutal. And the response in the heart of most believers is to ask themselves, “What can I do?”
Well, a lot.
First, you can find out through worldrelief.org how you can welcome Syrian refugees into your area. Because the difference between more children being killed by chemical gas as oppose to being alive in a home, might just depend on how the church responds to this. Buildings, lights, blogs and worship albums are all valuable. But Jesus cares more about people. And maybe the time has come for the pendulum to swing hard towards a Gospel that is literally good news to the poor, not just good news to a few.
“For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me”. Jesus in Matthew 25
Second, my friend (and one of my all time heroes) Jeremy Courtney from the Preemptive Love Coalition has an incredible invitation for us all. This is a necessary video and this can be your response to the madness that is facing us. I pray that you watch it, share it and DONATE to this great cause today.
We could continue to do church as is, or we can be the church that God dreamed of. And that dream has roots all over Syria.
Let the nightmare stop.
Let the people of hope rise again.
Please watch, share and donate.
Open your mouth for the mute, for the rights of all who are destitute. Open your mouth, judge righteously, defend the rights of the poor and needy. Proverbs 31:8-9
* Read More: Dear Christian, Jesus Was A Refugee.