Aslan is on the Move: God is Working in the Syrian Refugee Crisis, and We’re Part of that Work
It’s not until the seventh chapter of the first book of The Chronicles of Narnia that you even learn the principle character’s name. He’s the Christ figure; he’s the king. But it’s only in the seventh chapter you hear these words: “They say that Aslan is on the move.” And that changes everything in the story.
God is up to something in the Middle East, in a land that is weary with people that are losing hope—Aslan is on the move, and we get a chance to decide how we will join the refugee response. But if it’s going to be a movement of God, it will be you and I as individuals and our churches figuring out, learning, and growing in awareness. Eventually, some of us will take the risk to move into a place of engagement. Then some of us will actually take the next step to investment—we will invest our time, our money, our ministry to this—but it will not be a top-down mandate. It has to be us allowing the people of God to move into this.
Create space for conversations
Until then, we pastors have to create a safe space for difficult conversations, because the people you will be talking to are on a continuum. As I have those conversations, I’ve found they’re getting clouded. It’s overwhelming. You see it on the faces of the people who are there, sitting in a plastic tent five minutes from the Syrian border. You see it on their faces, but you also see it on the faces of those showing up to help—it’s overwhelming, it’s too big, it’s confusing. But fear enters into this. Sometimes anger. It’s the latest headline. We know about the rhetoric that is happening because of the presidential election, so what is it as pastors we’re supposed to do?
I’ll tell you what I’ve done. I preempt these arguments by saying we’re going to have them. As I’ve tried to have conversations about this, I’ve noticed we lump people into categories. We make broad generalizations and assumptions. That’s not right.
We have to vow that we will not allow that language to take place and instead say, “We’re not going to arrive at the same place on this, we’re not going to agree on this, but we can agree that we will have a common language and we will NOT destroy community over this.” In the undocumented work that we’re doing in Ferguson, there is one thought that we keep in mind, no matter what we do, and it is this: distance demonizes. From a distance, someone looks just like a problem; they look like someone I don’t want to know. But up close, now they have a story, now they’re made in the image of God, now they have a name—now we can start.
Use stories to bridge gaps
When you begin to move from awareness to engagement, it’s really the stories that are the bridge. So when I’m sitting in a tent with Rich Stearns in Lebanon, and we’re hearing a family that is weeping and wondering if Dad is even alive in Syria, now it’s not theory. When you’re sitting at a school in a slum in Beirut, and all the kids are drawing pictures of hand grenades and bombs, it’s not theory. I believe people like World Vision can help us bridge the gaps and can help us tell those stories.
We have to keep bridging this gap with stories, but I can tell you, straight up, if this is going to be a movement that makes a difference over the years, we don’t just talk about awareness or engagement. For us to feed, clothe, and provide, it will cost money.
Is this going to make a difference? I’m not naive enough to think that our involvement now in the coming years will make everything in that region of the world better. But if you’re telling me that providing a cup of clean water, warm food, a place to sleep, and a school for children won’t make a difference, of course, it does. We just don’t know how much. I just know we’ve been called to this. That’s what I want to challenge you with, both across the church spectrum and in your own churches.
Strive for unity with God
I’ll remind you of a story you know. On the worst night of his life, after he had a meal with his closest friends, Jesus is on his way to Gethsemane to pour his heart out to his Father, and he prays another prayer. You’ll find it in John 17. He prays for himself, he prays for his disciples, and then he prays for us. He doesn’t pray that we would be the coolest kids on the block. He doesn’t even pray that we would have airtight theological arguments or witty comebacks to the people who disagree with us.
You know what he prays? He says, “Father may they be one, as you and I are one.” So somehow, the way you and I love, worship, work, and dream together, the way we face a crisis that we will never again see the likes of in our lifetime—this could reflect the oneness, the love between Father and Son, and the world could take notice. This is our chance to show a watching world how the church can work together. It’s a chance to help people in a land that is weary. It’s a chance to offer hope where there isn’t much.
We’re not going to agree on what we should do, when we should do it, and how much we should do. This will be a movement of God that you and I can’t predict. And if we do this together and the world takes notice, then this prayer of Jesus’ is answered, the overlooked and forgotten are championed, and the kingdom of God is at hand.
You’re not crazy for caring. You’re not alone because we will do this together. And we’re not alone because there is One who goes before us. There is One who is already up to something, and he is not intimidated or overwhelmed by this. They say that Aslan is on the move, and I think that changes everything.
Greg Holder is lead pastor of The Crossing in Chesterfield, Missouri, a Willow Creek Association member church, and author of the upcoming book from Navpress entitled The Genius of One. Learn more about him at www.gregholder.com.
Engage your whole church around the refugee crisis. When you host a Refugee Sunday, you’ll get all of the resources needed to deepen your congregation’s understanding of the crisis and move them to respond to God’s heart for the most vulnerable.