Editor’s note: “Matters of faith” is a column that provides local religious leaders a place to write about how their respective faiths provide hope, courage and strength in these modern times.
Most of us have remarked about, or at least thought about, the “mysterious ways” of God. Sometimes God just does things in ways you would never have thought of, and yet when all is said and done, you are amazed at how God orchestrated so many things to bring about such a great blessing.
I was thinking about St. Patrick the other day; he was captured by Irish pirates at the age of 16 in the 5th century, taken from his home in Great Britain, and forced to care for animals back in Ireland. He escaped after six years and then went on to become a cleric. Even though it was the Irish who kidnapped him and made him a slave, he graciously chose to return to Ireland to share the love and Good News of Christ with them.
His Holy Spirit-led ministry made such a great impact on the small nation that by the 7th century he was the Patron Saint of Ireland. Without a doubt, through the work of Christ in and through his life, he shared about how to be free in Christ with those who had attempted to deprive him of his freedom. What a blessed irony.
I was thinking about that same kind of mysterious irony of God in relation to the Syrian refugee situation here in our country today, as well as in other parts of the world. Syria is a dangerous place for anyone to go today, particularly Christians, and especially Christians from America. Nonetheless, God desires Syrians hear the gospel, because there is no other way of salvation. Jesus died for every Syrian, as much as for anyone else.
So how can the Syrians be evangelized? How can we get among them to show them the love of Christ, and then to tell them about the salvation that is available only through faith in Jesus?
God has done a great work; He has brought them among us. And not just among Christians here in the United States, but also among other Christians in other parts of the world to where the Syrians have been scattered as they have fled from their war-torn country.
Due to the upheaval in Syria, more than 12 million of the 20 million Syrians have fled their country and settled in various places around the world: primarily in Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon and Iraq, but also in Europe and a small number in the United States.
Consider the wisdom and ways of God. Not only is Syria a dangerous place to go, especially if you are an American Christian, but in Syria it is also most likely dangerous for a Syrian to be openly listening to Christians share the gospel of Christ, as over 18 million of the 20 million Syrians are Muslim, and most are not favorably disposed toward those who leave Islam for Christianity.
But God loves the Syrians. Jesus died for the Syrians, and so He has made a way for His people to show His love to the Syrians, and to share the gospel with them in a far safer environment.
Although we have only about 11,000 of the Syrian refugees in the U.S., we have a great opportunity to show them love, and seek for opportunities to share the gospel with them from the Bible.
I realize that many people in the U.S. are understandably concerned about terrorists possibly infiltrating the ranks of the refugees; nonetheless they are here, and one question we must ask ourselves as Christians is, “What would God have us do?” Clearly He would have us offer them the love of God in tangible ways, and by offering them salvation through faith in Christ.
Think about what God has done; we could not easily get to them, so He has brought them to us. In addition, when things settle down in Syria, as we pray that they will, many of them will go home; and the ones who go home who have become Christians can take the gospel with them and share the gospel with their neighbors, just as God intends for His people to do.
Fortunately Lebanon is a much safer place for Christians, as is Jordan. In addition, about 10-15 percent of the Egyptian population is Christian, with roughly 15 million Christians living in Egypt today. So God has dispersed these people He loves into places where they can hear and respond to the gospel far more safely than they could have otherwise.
Sometimes we may not like what is going on in the world around us. I not only understand that, I can fully relate to that. But we must never forget that God is always in control, and we should trust Him. Thus, we must constantly ask ourselves what God would have us do in the circumstances we face.
Choose life — Choose Christ.
McCartney is pastor of First Baptist Church of Tooele.