As I write this, the Middle Eastern Refugee crisis is the biggest news in the papers and on the TV. Of course, by the time you read this, the news will probably have moved on, or the situation may have changed. However, I do believe that this is such an important, and morally charged, situation that I felt I should still write about it (after all, the news may have changed, but millions of people don’t just disappear!) . So I thought it would take time to point out a number of things the Bible says which are relevant to the issue.
- God is a refuge for refugees. God is regularly described as a refuge (e.g. Ps 61:3; Ps 143:9), which means God’s heart is for justice and help to those who are refugees:
“For the LORD your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great God, mighty and awesome, who shows no partiality and accepts no brides. He defends the cause of the fatherless and the widow, and loves the foreigners residing among you, giving them food and clothing. And you are tp love those who are foreigners, for you yourselves were foreigners in Egypt.”
2. God wants His people to offer refuge to refugees. Justice for the refugee was at the very heart of Old Testament teaching. Take this as one example:
“Remember that you were slaves in Egypt and the LORD your God redeemed you from there. That is why I command you to do this. When you are harvesting in your field and overlook a sheaf, do not go back to get it. Leave it for the foreigner, the fatherless and the widow, so that the LORD your God may bless you in all the work of your hands. When you beat the olives from your trees, do not go over the branches a second time. Leave what remains for the foreigner, the fatherless and the widow.”
These kinds of commands come up again, and again, and again! They boil down, essentially to, you have received grace, so be gracious! For example, one of the key facts that was used to show that Job was a good righteous man was that he housed the refugee (Job 31:32) – could we say the same about the UK?
3. The Bible is full of refugees – and I really do mean FULL. I’ll just list a few: Adam, Eve, Cain, Noah, Abraham, Sarah, Lot, Hagar, Ishmael, Isaac, Rebecca, Jacob, Esau, Joseph, all of Israel!, Moses, Naomi, Ruth, David, Elijah, Esther, Mordecai, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach, Abednego. In the New Testament Mary, Joseph, Philip, Peter, Aquila, Priscilla and the whole of the Early Church! The were displaced through natural disasters, exploitation, people trafficking, war, famine, persecution and other things. Next time you look down or feel hostile towards to foreigner, remember that almost all the Biblical heroes were in the same boat! And that includes the greatest Biblical hero of them all …
4. Jesus was a refugee. When Jesus was born his family had to flee to a foreign country to escape death from a powerful ruler.
“When they had gone, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream. ‘Get up,’ he said, ‘take the child and his mother and escape to Egypt. Stay there until I tell you, for Herod is going to search for the child to kill him.’ So he got up, took the child and his mother during the night and left for Egypt, where he stayed until the death of Herod. And so was fulfilled what the Lord had said through the prophet: ‘Out of Egypt I called my son.’
Next time you see a desperate refugee parent clutching their small child, remember that 2000 years ago that was Jesus. (We really do have a saviour who knows and understands our sorrows and weaknesses!)
5. We ourselves were once aliens and strangers. Paul says that all those who are Christians were once aliens and strangers – not in a physical sense, but in a spiritual sense. But we have, through God’s mercy, been redeemed and received refuge and citizenship in God’s kingdom:
“Remember that at that time you were separate from Christ, excluded from citizenship in Israel and foreigners to the covenants of the promise, without hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near by the blood of Christ … Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and strangers, but fellow-citizens with God’s people and also members of his household.”
Ephesians 2:12-13, 19
Peter says a similar thing in 1 Peter 2:9-10. But thanks be to God, we have been made members of his kingdom – we have been provided with citizenship.
6. We are still refugees, foreigners and exiles. Peter explains that, because we are now citizens with God, then we are now foreigners and exiles in this sinful world.
“Dear friends, I urge you, as foreigners and exiles, to abstain from sinful desire, which war against your soul.”
1 Peter 2:11
7. Hospitality is at the heart of being a Christian. At the centre of the Christian gospel is the story of a God who opens his home, his table and his heart to a rebellious people. He rescues us, restores us, redeems us, adopts us and grants us a share in Jesus’ inheritance. As such we’re called to show that same radical hospitality to all, here’s just a small selection of verses:
“Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practise hospitality.”
“Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins. Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling. Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms.”
1 Peter 4:8-10
“Keep on loving one another as brothers and sisters. Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it. Continue to remember those in prison as if you were together with them in prison as if you were together with them in prison, and those who are ill-treated as if you yourselves were suffering.”
Whatever the response of the government is towards the refugee crisis (and it may have changed drastically by the time you read this) the only Christian response is compassion. We must be the ones who offer the loudest welcome to those who make it to Britain and we must be the ones to consistently call politicians towards openness and compassion. And we must be willing to pay the price this costs, as we have freely given, so we freely give. This shines God’s light into a dark world.
There are more things that could be said, and the situation may be vastly different by the time you read this, but as Christians we know that whatever we do for the least of these, we do to Jesus. So whatever you do, do something!
God bless you all,