So, as Christ-followers and God-worshippers, why should we be concerned about refugees – those around the world and those even in our back yard here in the USA? Here are a few simple reasons…
1. IT’S THE BIBLICAL THING TO DO
Refugees are seen all throughout the Bible although called by different names. Usually they are referred to as strangers, sojourners, aliens, or foreigners in the land and they have a special place in the heart of God. Frequently the Bible mention three categories of people that we need to pay special attention to: the widows, the orphans, and the strangers living among us. These are oftentimes the most vulnerable of the population and have a special protective mandate given by God to His people.
“Thus says the Lord, “Do justice and righteousness, and deliver the one who has been robbed from the power of his oppressor. Also do not mistreat or do violence to the stranger, the orphan, or the widow; and do not shed innocent blood in this place.” (Jeremiah 22:3)
“When you have finished paying all the tithe of your increase in the third year, the year of tithing, then you shall give it to the Levite, to the stranger, to the orphan and to the widow, that they may eat in your towns and be satisfied.” (Deuteronomy 26:12)
“…and do not oppress the widow or the orphan, the stranger or the poor; and do not devise evil in your hearts against one another.” (Zechariah 7:10)
“…I was a stranger and you welcomed me.” (Matthew 25:35)
2. THERE ARE REFUGEES IN THE BIBLE
Some of the best know figures in the Bible were “strangers” in the land that they dwelt in. Abraham declared himself a “sojourner” and “foreigner” to the men of Canaan even though he was living in the promised land. The nation of Israel was oftentimes a stranger in the land that they either voluntarily of forcibly relocated to. An example is moving to Egypt because of famine (which led to the enslavement of the whole nation) as well as the forced exiles of the Assyrians and Babylonians. David, before his kingship, fled for his life to the land of the Philistines and was forced to live at the mercy of his enemies. The New Testament describes us as strangers in this land (Ephesians 2:19) who now, in Christ, have been adopted into the family of God. And Peter goes on to say that once, even though we weren’t a people but rather sojourners and exiles, we know have received mercy to become the people of God. (1 Peter 2:10-11)
But possibly the greatest example of being a “stranger in a foreign land” was Jesus himself. Who being the very form of God, took the likeness of man and became one of us, to live the life we couldn’t, die the death we deserved. Not only did he leave heaven for earth, but he was also on run while on earth being a refugee as a baby (the flight to Egypt – Matthew 2:13-15) and constantly sought after by angry religious leaders during his earthly ministry.
3. IT’S STRATEGIC
There are more displaced people in the world today than ever before. The physical needs are immense. But so are the spiritual needs. Many of these people come from areas of the world that have little or no access to the gospel. Our Christ-like, compassionate, truth-sharing response to their needs opens up doors to opportunities to address their deepest need – a need to know the eternal savior. Places that are traditionally “closed” to our physical presence, have their people spilling across borders and going to places that we can openly minister and share. As an example, it might be hard or next to impossible to access certain people/communities in the Middle East but when they flee to other areas of the world, we can have open access. We do want to help them in their physical needs. And we want to help them in with excellent and professional strategies. But we also recognize the greatest need for any person is a deep, spiritual one.
Another strategic example is the refugees in our back yard here in the USA. Today, there are more unreached people and people groups living inside the USA than any country in the world (outside of India and China). According to World Relief, there are now 361 unreached people groups within the boundaries of our home country. What a great opportunity for the church to show compassion and make Christ known!
So why should we care about refugees? It’s biblical, it’s Christ-like, and it’s strategic.