In light of recent events, I’ve felt compelled to write an informative piece on what the Bible says about the treatment of the foreigner, the alien, and the refugee. There are some topics like this one that deserve a thoughtful response from pastors and spiritual leaders. My desire is not to advocate for a political position, or align with one side or the other. The very loud and obnoxious cultural opinions being expressed through the airways do not inform my opinion in the least. Rather, it is because this issue is so strongly expressed throughout the scriptures, I believe it needs to be addressed. Here are some things to consider as we think about the current political climate as it relates to refugees.
Jesus was a refugee
A short time after Jesus was born in Bethlehem, Joseph, his father, was warned in a dream he should flee Israel and seek safety in Egypt (Matthew 2:13-15). Joseph moved his family down to Egypt and lived there for what may have been a couple of years. Jesus was a refugee. Let that sink in for a moment considering the current circumstances.
God’s people were refugees and he wanted them to remember the feeling
All of Israel were sold into slavery, rescued by God and brought up out of Egypt. God was very clear they should remember the feeling and treat foreigners accordingly. Israel’s laws were set up in such a way as to treat all human beings with dignity and respect, a reflection of the all important truth that every person has been created in the image of God.
“‘When a foreigner resides among you in your land, do not mistreat them. The foreigner residing among you must be treated as your native-born. Love them as yourself, for you were foreigners in Egypt. I am the Lord your God.
~ Leviticus 19:33-34
God’s heart is moved by compassion for those in desperate circumstances
The widow, the orphan, and the foreigner are given special attention throughout the scriptures. It’s not a sidebar, or an obscure passage found in one place and pulled out of context. God’s attitude towards these oppressed people groups is a strong theme in Levitical law (Deuteronomy 10:18-19; Leviticus 24:19-21; Exodus 23:9) , a constant rebuke from the prophets (Jeremiah 7:5-7; Ezekiel 22:7; Zechariah 7:9; Jeremiah 22:3), and a foundational teaching of Jesus (Matthew 25:34-39; Luke 11:42; Luke 10:29-37). If we ignore the cause of these oppressed people, we will offend the character of God.
Jesus despised Nationalism
Jesus was not a Zealot (a Jewish nationalist), nor was he a Roman sympathizer (a Sadducee). He found a way to look at the popular nationalistic ideas of his day in a transcendent way. He was asked whether he should pay taxes to Caesar and masterfully dodged the question. He had both a tax collector, who had aligned with Rome (Matthew) and a zealot, who believed all Romans should die (Peter) as his disciples. Most importantly, Jesus hated the racism and mistreatment of Samaritans and spoke out against it in multiple ways. His parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:29-37) is a beautiful story of self-sacrificial love challenging all of us to look beyond racial and religious prejudice. His encounter with the Samaritan woman at the well shows us that the parable of the Good Samaritan was more than a nice metaphor to Jesus. He was committed to treating people of all races and religions in a way that reflected how much they matter to God.
In putting America’s security first, America’s economy first, and America’s prosperity first, we dare not offend the very one who through divine providence has blessed the United States of America far beyond what we deserve. Let’s heed the words of Jesus who said, “The first shall be last and the last shall be first.”