Monday, 21 September 2015

Refugees like Jesus

It has been nearly 3 weeks since the photos of little Aylan Kurdi made world headlines after he, along with his mother, older brother and several others, drowned at sea when a boat carrying them from Turkey to Greece capsized in rough waters. By now, at least for those of us living outside of Europe, the shocking images have somewhat faded away as both time and the demands of daily life have distracted us from the hell that others are currently going through on the other side of the world. Facebook is once again filled with pictures of hamburger dinners, minion memes, ‘share this if you are not ashamed of Jesus’ and ‘like this if you have an awesome son or daughter’ pictures.

Nevertheless, in between all of this, if you follow the right people and pages, both the news and social media have still continued reporting on the refugee crisis. We have heard some of the personal stories of those who are fleeing, we have seeing how certain countries have taken a hard stance in saying “no more” and then we have also read inspirational stories of ordinary people opening their homes up to refugees or providing food, water and clothing to those in need. This post however is more concerned with the Christian response to the crisis, particularly those on the right who have shown a lack of love and biblical ignorance in how we are to treat ‘outsiders’.

So my goal today is simply to point out what the bible has to say about foreigners and refugees and how we should treat them and then I want to challenge people to take these commands more seriously. It is worth pointing out to the local readers here in SA that we too have a large number of foreigners among us and because of our xenophobic history this post is just as applicable here as it would be to those in the U.K., Iceland or Hungary. So let’s have a look at a few verses:-

Do no neglect to show hospitality to strangers… - Hebrews 13:2

So you, too, must show love to foreigners, for you yourselves were once foreigners in the land of Egypt. – Deuteronomy 10:19

Thus says the Lord: “Execute judgment and righteousness, and deliver the plundered out of the hand of the oppressor. Do no wrong and do no violence to the stranger, the fatherless or the widow… - Jeremiah 22:3

You shall neither mistreat a stranger nor oppress him, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt.” – Exodus 22:21

You must not oppress foreigners. You know what it’s like to be a foreigner, for you yourselves were once foreigners in the land of Egypt. - Exodus 23:9

So I will come to put you on trial. I will be quick to testify against sorcerers, adulterers and perjurers, against those who defraud laborers of their wages, who oppress the widows and the fatherless, and deprive the foreigners among you of justice, but do not fear me,” says the LORD Almighty. – Malachi 3:5

You are to distribute this land among yourselves according to the tribes of Israel. You are to allot it as an inheritance for yourselves and for the foreigners residing among you and who have children. You are to consider them as native-born Israelites; along with you they are to be allotted an inheritance among the tribes of Israel. In whatever tribe a foreigner resides, there you are to give them their inheritance, declares the Sovereign LORD. – Ezekiel 47:21-23

The thoughts in the Old Testament carry over into the New Testament as well. Jesus and his parents, like Israel before them, were foreigners in the land of Egypt, forced to flee as refugees when Herod ordered the execution of all male children in Bethlehem who were two years old or younger (Matthew 2:13-18). This is the same Jesus who later told us that the greatest of all the commandments was to love God and to love your neighbor as yourself (Luke 10:27). He then goes on to explain who our neighbor is, the parable of the good Samaritan reveals that our neighbor is not defined by those who share our ethnicity, our citizenship, our common beliefs or even our religion. No, our neighbor looks like the Syrian, the Iraqi, the Zambian and the Zimbabwean.

The bible seems to have an awful lot to say on the subject and its teachings are pretty consistent and clear, yet this does not sit well with many of us. Perhaps it stems out of fear which is a reasonable response when ones feels that their life and freedom is being threatened. Maybe it is our instinct to look out for number one and when push comes to shove we are just not comfortable sacrificing our own comforts for the sake of others. We are happy to help so long as it does not cost us anything. Many fear that terrorists are secretly infiltrating Europe under the guise of helpless victims of war. Perhaps this is a good place for me to put in a picture of what these ‘soldiers’ look like.

As followers of Christ, we are not called to follow the ways of the world. We overcome in the same way that our Lord did, by laying down our own lives (Revelation 12:11). As followers of Christ, we are commanded to love our enemies and to do good to those who hate and persecute us (Matthew 5:44). The sad thing is that these people are not even our enemies. They are fleeing from the same people who would love to destroy us as well.

The law is fulfilled in one word, even in this, you shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Galatians 5:14).

Evil abounds in our world and it will not be overcome by building up our walls or closing up our borders. It may work for earthly kingdoms or if our goal is self preservation but for those under Christ’s Lordship, evil is conquered by doing good (Romans 12:21). Victory is not defined by being the last man standing but in persevering in Christ.

If your enemy is hungry give him bread to eat; and if he is thirsty, give him water to drink. – Proverbs 25:21

This article is part of a September Synchro-Blog on the Middle-Eastern Refugee Crisis.  Read more MennoNerdy articles on the topic by clicking over here.

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