Risk, Refugees and our Compassion Responsibility

imprrh@gmail.com —  November 21, 2015

This has surely been an eventful week! Social media has been ablaze with discussion on whether Syrian refugees should relocate to United States. Here is my take on it. Feel free to disagree. Let’s just keep it civil.

  1. Risk.

One of the most common responses many share is the element of risk. I get it. It is risky. All the vetting in the world will not guarantee that unsavory elements bent on destruction will be kept at bay.

Yet…before we refuse help to those that need it most, please consider this. The gospel is risky. So is following Jesus.

It was risky for missionaries to go to foreign land where they were eaten, beaten and killed. They put their families at risk, many of them going to preach with a one way ticket.

It was risky for the disciples to share Jesus’ message across the world. Most died as a result.

It was risky for people in Nazi Germany to hide in their homes Jewish people. They put their families at risk of death.

There are many words to describe discipleship. Safe is not one of them.


  1. Responsibility.

Just because there is a possibility of harm, does not preclude me from the responsibility of loving and caring for the least of these. Pictures of that baby washing ashore eats at me every day. I have kids and grandkids. What if that was my situation? What would I do? It is my belief, and you may well disagree, that the choice is not between helping the least of these or keeping my family safe. It is between saving the least of these or following a biblical command. The more I think about it, the more convinced I am.


  1. Refugees.

We usually reject what we don’t know. Let’s do away for a moment with political rhetoric and posturing, tracking lists or rabid dogs analogies. These are people. Kids like yours. Women like your mom. Men like your brother. The bigger question I seldom hear asked is this: What causes people in that region to think blowing themselves up is a better choice than their lives? (thanks Yamil for that question) What is going on that they would think that putting your child on an overcrowded boat is a better idea than staying where you are? What a wonderful time to follow the many commands of Jesus regarding the least of these. Many years from now as people look back what will they say about the church? A post-Christian wrote me this week:

“You Christians are amazing. Although this is an unscientific poll,

but a quick browse through my FB pages I see that many of the so called Christians,

are the one refusing to accept the refugees, and the so called godless heathens

are the ones calling for compassion and charity to them.”


Somehow, we need to find a way to do better. I believe we can.


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5 responses to Risk, Refugees and our Compassion Responsibility

  1. Very good Pr. Roger Hernandez !!! May Compassion and Love Reign!!!

  2. “I struggle to imagine a more troubling irony than Christians seeking a religious test for refugees when Jesus says “I was a stranger and you welcomed me” is a religious test for being a Christian.” (My friend Nick Zork wrote this phrase in his FB status. It summarizes my opinion). Thank you for being clear. I also believe we can do better!

  3. I think there must be a way to show compassion and caution at the same time. I also don’t believe that however much of a Christian people consider themselves to be they get to decide how much of a Christian other people are. obviously, I am less of a Christian than you are because I would rather show the refugees charity in their own homes, sensing there may be dangers, hidden there, to my own family…although I don’t fear for myself, I make my choice in the desire to protect others……& even the good samaritan must not have been that good, since he didn’t bring the stranger to his own home, instead he put him up in a hotel, and paid for all his needs. Shame on him!

    • I like your comments Carol. Even as Christians, we still judge each other by standards, or maybe our own standards. In our country’s history, there have been many times we could/should have helped refugees, Jewish, Vietnamese and Cambodian, but turned a blind eye to it. The many churches in this great nation DID step up to the plate and sponsor many refugees from other countries. (After they had escaped the atrocities in their country). Our country is no longer able to take on tens of thousands more into our bankrupt welfare systems giving most of them lifelong free rides. That is just a fact, not a compassion issue. I wonder where our compassion lies when we turn our backs on the very ones who fought for our freedoms, our veterans. Where are the benefits that they need? No money in the budget. And, the another thing that concerns me is actually for these refugees safety if they come here. There are so many that oppose it, will this also add violence and heated anger to be shown against them? Will some become targets here and then we heap more coals of hate from ISIS? I wonder how safe they actually will be! I do think we can send aid and should, but I also think they are better off to stay in a culture they understand.

  4. A few points. – re: money in system to help people.

    a), The U.S. has an annual GDP of ~$16.77T as of 2013, and Gross National Income of ~$17T. Think of these figures as the total productive Income of the nation.

    b) The federal government collected taxes/fees of about $3T in 2013 and spent $3.5T (deficit of 500B).

    c) The Fed Gov has ~$16T in debt.

    Let’s look it at it another way. Let’s imagine a household. This household:

    1) Has annual income of $3,000 dollars, but spends $3,500 a year so it has to borrow $500 to fund its consumption.
    2) That household has, >$123,000 of net worth (houses, cars, income producing oil royalties, etc.).
    2) is $16,000 of debt when you have >$123,000 in Net Worth really such a bad thing?
    3) also the vast majority of this debt is in low single digit interest rates, and denominated in our own currency (monetization possibilities).

    What does this all mean? We have more than enough money, resources, and capabilities to take care of the Refugees, and our own people. Our issue isn’t a lack of resources, it’s a lack of proper distribution.

    Although $16T sounds like a lot of money, lets keep it in perspective. You have to take into account the fact that the Fed Gov has a net worth of >~$123T. (Assets – debts/liabilities). That’s net worth. If we paid all our debts today we would have >$123T in assets to monetize.

    Links to sources”
    a) https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Financial_position_of_the_United_States (Yes its wikipedia, but the underlying source is Federal Reserve)
    b) http://data.worldbank.org/country/united-states
    c) http://www.taxpolicycenter.org/taxfacts/displayafact.cfm?Docid=200