Many Perth churches minister into the Third World but few preach the plight of the global poor as an issue of biblical justice. The fate of Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran incites frenzied interest but few interceded for refugee and recent Christian convert Saeed Hassanloo expected to die from a hunger strike.
By John Yates:
Our governments bribe poor neighbours like PNG/Cambodia to take asylum seekers revealing that “stopping the boats” is primarily an economic issue.
Is Gordon Preece correct to claim our national attitude to refugees represents a failure to see it is Refu-Jesus who we are rejecting? Could Fr. Pancras Jordan possibly be right when he cites Christ’s words ““I was a stranger and you welcomed me.”” (Matt 25:35) and comments; “It is by the way one treats the poor and the stranger that one’s worthiness to enter eternal life is tested.”
If we as a Church are really like the German Christians who turned a blind eye to Hitler’s treatment of Jews why can’t we discern our own wicked barbarity (Paul Tyson)?
Tossed to and fro by all these winds of doctrine (Eph 4:14) the Lord challenged me directly; ““You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.”” (Matt 7:5).
When an Indigenous leader states, “You are all boat people,” he is trying to expose the hypocritical attitude of the descendants of the first waves of invaders of his native land. Despite all our sincere efforts at reconciliation, apology, financial compensations and attempts to “close the gap” mainstream Australian culture cannot escape a deep inner knowledge that our predecessors took this country by force.
That there is no human way to undo the past abuses wrought upon aboriginal peoples leaves deep moral unrest in the national psyche blocking impartiality when it comes to showing hospitality to the uninvited. We dare not stir up our own national guilt by getting too close to flesh and blood refugees made like us in the divine image.
God however is not mocked; if we keep the needy at a distance, lest we be moved by compassion to help them, we should not be surprised that God seems distant from us (Prov 14:21; 31). With the same insecurities implanted by the principalities and powers as the general population Christians are living as though we are under the wrath of God (Eph 2:1-3; 6:12).
Lacking the vision of a heavenly homeland we are a covetous people obsessed with home ownership and from which the Lord hides his face (Isa 45:15; 57:17; Phil 3:20; Col 3:1-4; Heb 11:10-16). Lacking that wisdom which unmasks the lies of the demonic hosts the Church must turn to Refu-Jesus for illumination (Eph 3:10).
The Inheritance of Christ
Nowhere to be born, a refugee in Egypt fleeing from a corrupt authoritarian power, rejected by his own people, and finally crucified as an outcast from the covenant beyond the walls of the city of God the life of Christ is framed by homelessness (Ps 48:1; Matt 2:13-15; Luke 2:7; John 1:11; 7:5; Heb 13:12).
Yet in God’s economy the disinherited, dispossessed Refu-Jesus is supernaturally raised from the dead receiving from God’s hand alone the “nations for an inheritance” (Ps 2:7-8). These “nations” are not material parcels of land but the peoples of the world as members of the eternal family of God (Eph 1:18).
It is not UN guidelines that shapes our discernment of what God is doing in the midst of refugee peoples across the globe, but Jesus’ desire to bring sons to the Father from “every tribe and language and people and nation” (Heb 2:10; Rev 5:9).
With this in mind we sense Christ “preaching peace to us who were far off and peace to those who were near.”; Refu-Jesus is preaching the same gospel to Australian citizens and boat people (1 Cor 2:16; Eph 2:17; 6:15). This gospel is obscured by the nationalistic prejudices and self-righteousness of the political right and left but illuminated solely by the grace of Christ alone (Heb 13:2).
Seeing the Gift of Grace
“For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich.”(2 Cor 8:9). By incarnation and crucifixion Refu-Jesus has given God a “rich inheritance in the saints” (Eph 1:18). So rich is this legacy that no earthly power can threaten it; “all things are ours” for we are “fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him.” (Rom 8:17; 1 Cor 3:21).
The boat people which God has sovereignly sent our way are a cross by which the Lord has been testing us, and largely finding us his Church to be wanting (Dan 5:27; Eph 1:11).
All Christians believe that grace communicates the humanity of Christ without measure, but few accept that such grace must come in the form of weakness and struggle (2 Cor 12:9-10; Col 2:9-10).
Against the values of my working class racist upbringing, with a father who had fought off the “yellow peril” during WW II and a mother that was ever anxious about an “Indianosean” (Indonesian) invasion from the north, I discern that our boat people are a great undeserved and unrecognised gift of grace to our nation who carry within them seeds of a tremendous spiritual revival.
An Applied Conclusion
With many desperate refugees turning to Christ you are far more likely to find a “brother” of Jesus in a detention centre than in the house next door (Matt 25:40). With no sign of government clemency Christians in confinement have become totally reliant upon divine mercy for their future.
In extremity they have entered into that state of dependency upon God alone that prophetically speaks to us, their comfortable brethren, of that frame of mind which alone can bring national revival (2 Cor 1:8-10). In the economy of God our rejected boat people have become a sign of the Lord’s future purposes for our land.
The Spirit is calling the Church to spiritually adopt these family members and become a mature Church pointing to a destiny that has always eluded Australia; to become a nation able to impart the Father’s blessing to other lands culturally so unlike us (Matt 25:34).
A profound mystery is unfolding in our midst.
Whether by voluntary or forceful return to their homelands God is sovereignly raising up some of our detained brothers to shed their blood as Christians so that the glory of his kingdom might come to all the nations of the earth (Mark 14:36; John 21:18-19).
Just as the religious and political rulers of Jesus’ day unknowingly cooperated with Satan in crucifying our Lord it seems that our national leaders are about to unwittingly cooperate with beastly powers in sending followers of the Lamb to suffering and death (Acts 4:24-28; 1 Cor 2:8; Rev 13:7-10).
Given the current spiritual state of nation and Church this great and terrible destiny for some of our boat brothers seems unalterable.
A judgement upon nations is coming; the merciless “goats” shall go to “eternal fire” and the compassionate brothers of Jesus to the blessing of the Father (Matt 25:31-46).
The only sure salvation from the wrath to come is to find shelter in the true gospel of Jesus; to Refu-Jesus we must turn to find deliverance from his hand alone (1 Thess 1:10).