Syrian refugee children climb on a fence to watch a football training workshop in a refugee camp to provide Syrian and Jordanian trainers with football training skills, at Azraq refugee camp near Al Azraq city, JordanIn this article for RNS, I lay out the differing opinions of evangelicals on the best way to respond to the Syrian refugee crisis.

Evangelicals may be united that the Bible is the ultimate source of authority, but they are divided on how the Bible would lead us to respond to the growing crisis of refugees fleeing from Syria.

  • What is the best way to show Christian love and compassion?
  • How is the church’s role different from the state’s?
  • How do we show wisdom and prudence in securing the safety of our neighbors and nation?

These are just a few of the questions that evangelicals are grappling with. One evangelical pastor today told me, “My church members are all over the place on this!”

The situation in Syria is dire. More than 300,000 people have died. Half the country is now homeless. Millions are fleeing. The plight of the refugees came to national attention in September with a picture of a 3-year-year-old boy whose body washed up on shore in Turkey. Many evangelical Christians sprang into action, making plans for welcoming and serving the refugees.

I’ve seen evangelical compassion firsthand. I once served a church in a small town where hundreds of Somali refugees, the vast majority of them Muslim, were resettled.

Our church opened its doors and hosted fellowships; we devoted space to ESL and other citizenship classes. The makeshift mosque in our town may have been closed off to us Christians, but we made sure the doors of our church were open to the Muslim refugees. At their best, evangelicals are on the front lines of “welcoming the stranger.”

It’s no surprise then that evangelical leaders have been calling for Christians to receive and serve refugees. A Christianity Today editorial this fall called Christians to embrace the “unparalleled opportunity to love neighbors here and abroad, and to showcase the beauty of the gospel that proclaims good news to the poor, liberty for those stuck in refugee camps, and a new life for those fleeing from oppression.”

Evangelicals recognize that many of these men, women and children are “brothers and sisters in Christ” who are leaving behind the cradle of Christian civilization.

But since the terrorist attacks in Paris last week, the debate over whether and how to receive refugees has intensified.

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