Immigration and the Image of God

The Syrian refugee crisis has once again brought to the forefront the evil of war and the barbaric mistreatment of our fellow human beings. As we read story after story of people perishing and children drowning in their desperate attempt to flee the violence of the al-Assad regime, our hearts break. The sickening cruelty of man against man and the hostility the refugees receive from those they flee to only makes the situation more tragic.

As those who profess faith in Christ, we believe that we are all descendants of Adam. There is a sense in which all men are brothers and sisters of one another. We all share one blood which makes racism and prejudice impossible for those who claim to believe in the historicity of the book of Genesis. We have all been made in the image of God to reflect his attributes and subdue the earth on his behalf instead of subduing each other.

Despite the heroic evangelism of the Muslim world by faithful missionaries since the dawn of Islam, the fruit of the church’s labor has been almost completely barren. The only Evangelical Protestant churches in Muslim countries exist in the form of underground house churches or those composed primarily of expatriates who were not born into Islam. To my knowledge, there has never been a mass revival in Muslim lands where whole communities have turned from Islam to Christ. Muslims in these countries fear leaving Islam not only because of the punishment of death, but also the worst torments of hell in Islam are reserved for those who abandon the faith and commit shirk by associating others with God. Christianity is viewed as a form of shirk by Muslims because of their misunderstanding of the Trinity which has been set in stone by the Qur’an. Surah 5:116 reads:

“And when Allah saith: O Jesus, son of Mary! Didst thou say unto mankind: Take me and my mother for two gods beside Allah? he saith: Be glorified! It was not mine to utter that to which I had no right. If I used to say it, then Thou knewest it. Thou knowest what is in my mind, and I know not what is in Thy Mind. Lo! Thou, only Thou, art the Knower of Things Hidden?”

Muhammad mistakenly thought that Christians worshiped Mary together with Jesus and God. It is impossible for Muslims to have a correct understanding of Christian beliefs because to do so would be to admit that the Qur’an misrepresents the teachings of the Christian church that were already defined hundreds of years before Muhammad was born. Combine these barriers with the lack of religious freedom that exists in the Muslim world and it makes these communities almost impregnable to the gospel. It is illegal to openly share the gospel message in these countries or try to convert Muslims to Christ. Muslims must come to Christians for evangelism or else the Christians risk being deported and losing their gospel witness.

But now these same people whom we have been unable to reach with the gospel are coming to us – we who live in countries that still have freedom of religion. But rather than seeing this as an opportunity for Christian evangelism and outreach, we have become afraid. All we can think about is terrorism and the potential danger these immigrants may bring to us. And we will not witness to those we are afraid of. If we view these immigrants as terrorists instead of those fleeing from violence to seek a better life, something we all want, they will be just as unreached as if they still lived in the Middle East. We need to prepare ourselves to share the gospel with Muslims and be proactive in our witnessing and discipleship. We must become outwardly focused instead of inwardly focused.

Remember that these people are our brothers in Adam and we want them to be our brothers in Christ as well. Viewing lost people in light of the image of God and the purpose for which we have all been created changes our view of immigrants. Remember that we too are strangers and exiles on earth (Heb 11:13). At one time we were just as lost as them. But now in Christ we “are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God” (Eph 2:19). The only alien we should know as Christians is the alien righteousness of Christ. And there is nothing illegal about that.

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