Why Christians Must Love Refugees

The recent attacks in Paris have brought heartbreak and a surging panic streaking across the news, social media, and into the hands of American politicians and especially state governors.

Fake fear mongering news articles like ‘10,000 Refugees Landing in New Orleans’ have erupted. American states are closing themselves off from taking on refugees as a ‘safety precaution’ and Republican presidential candidates are calling for similar blocks from Congress.

But what does Jesus teach, what does the Bible teach about refugees?

Throughout the Scriptures the people of God are described as:

Sojourners.

Strangers.

Exiles.

In other words, refugees.

If you are a Christian, you are a refugee. Christians are to be the unsettled people in a foreign hostile world. (1st Chronicles 29:15, 1st Peter 2:11, Hebrews 11:3, 11:9, 11:16)

And what does God want from his refugee people (the church)?

“Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.” (Matthew 22:36–40)

Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality. (Romans 12:13)

Let brotherly love continue. Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares. (Hebrews 13:1–2)

Why does God want this?

He executes justice for the fatherless and the widow, and loves the sojourner, giving him food and clothing. Love the sojourner, therefore, for you were sojourners in the land of Egypt. You shall fear the Lord your God. You shall serve him and hold fast to him, and by his name you shall swear. (Deuteronomy 10: 18–20)

When a stranger sojourns with you in your land, you shall not do him wrong. 34 You shall treat the stranger who sojourns with you as the native among you, and you shall love him as yourself, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God. (Leviticus 19:34)

God told Israel to love outsiders, strangers, and refugees because they once were sojourning and oppressed in Egypt. This slavery in Egypt is a symbol of slavery, bondage, and oppression of sin that once gripped all of us. Jesus has set us free by his gospel from the law of sin and death, free from our Egypt. When we welcome the foreigner, the stranger, the sojourner, and the refugee, we give a picture of this magnificent gospel to the refugee and the watching world.

We love refugees and foreigners because we realize:

Once [we] were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now [we] have received mercy. (1st Peter 2:10)

And in many ways the Christian is still sojourning:

Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul. Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable, so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation. (1st Peter 2:11–12)

Will people get a chance to see Christ’s love in our honorable love to the refugee? Or see just another religious group following the culture, favorite politicians, loveless, and self-interested. To be clear, there is no Christian case to be made for rejecting these refugees.

Logically, blocking refugees doesn’t make much sense. 250,000 Syrians have died in the civil war and surrounding chaos producing around four million refugees. These are the victims of terror, not the terrorists. Could someone fake it and work the system hiding themselves and purposes for months or years on end from governments vetting agencies like the FBI and other refugees (eager to be away from terrorist minded people) they traveled with? Maybe, but unlikely. Remember, refugees are a hurting and uprooted people trying to find a home, safety, and stability. United States has plenty of terror attacks every year but as you can see here the nationalities are all over the map, including American citizens as terrorists.

Furthermore, the church must move past even political advocacy and into personal engagement. Get involved with local refugee welcoming agencies. Seek out refugee sensitive churches often led by former refugees and ask how you can come alongside.

What if God’s people were seen as fighting for the risky love of the outsider, instead of grasping for comfort that is safe, distant, and loveless? To be against refugees coming to America is strikingly similar to a priest who walked by a man left for dead in a ditch from Luke 10:25–37. The church will have to decide:

· Will the church be the Good Samaritan or the self-righteous, self-protecting priest?

· Will we love our neighbors or squirm trying to define ‘ who is my neighbor’ to avoid them?

· Will we give in to xenophobia or recognize one day every nation will worship Jesus (Revelation 5:9)?

· Will we give into fear or will we be fearless lovers of others like the death-defying risen Savior we follow?

Read the parable of the Good Samaritan; ask yourself ‘Who do you want to be in the story?’

I want to give thanks to Austin Braasch and Cort Gatliff for their tweets that helped inspire this post.

Also, all Bible references are from the lovely English Standard Version.

Header photo from The Day UK in 2014, http://theday.co.uk/images/stories/2014/2014-12/2014-12-03_syria.jpg