When the earliest Christians faced persecution in Jerusalem, the biblical text says many fled to Damascus
(difficult to imagine anyone fleeing *into* Syria these days...).
Extremists followed them there, threatening them with violence and religious tribunals, but the extremist leader, a Turkish Jew named Saul, was converted by a young Syrian Christian named Ananias
(the event occurred in 'Straight Street' in Damascus; the headquarters of the Syrian Orthodox Church is still there, on ‘Straight Street’).
mostly Muslims, but many Christians as well-
face persecution from extremists, and many western Christians want nothing to do with them.
Perhaps they fear the disruption of their comfortable lives;
perhaps they don’t understand all of the issues surrounding the Syrian War, and just don’t want to get involved;
Perhaps- somewhat ludicrously- they think that because the extremists are Muslims, and most of the people fleeing them are also Muslims, that the people fleeing are somehow in league with the people they are fleeing from…
Perhaps they’ve never been in a position of having to flee the onslaught of maniacs, and because they’ve never had to run for their lives, they can’t imagine that anyone would ever have to run for their lives…
Perhaps they forget that the family of Jesus had to run for their lives once, fleeing a militia of child-killing maniacs, and were refugees for years…
Whatever the reasons, the global Christian community owes Syrians a great debt for taking in the earliest Christians who fled persecution.
We owe a great debt to Ananias, a Syrian who laid aside his fear of meeting with an extremist and delivered to him instead a message of love and healing.
We owe a great debt to Syrians who have taken in thousands of Iraqi Christians, fleeing the chaos that American incompetence unleashed.
We owe a debt to Syrians because they are our neighbours;
They are hungry, and they need something to eat;
They are thirsty, and they need something to drink;
They need clothes, and we have clothes;
They are sick and we have doctors;
They are trapped, and need to be freed.
We owe Syrians a debt because today- right now- Jesus is Syrian…
… and we have failed to recognize him…
We owe them... and it's time to pay up.