God’s heart for refugees.
God has revealed in Scripture, through stories of the faithful, through the law and prophets and poets of the Old Testament and the life and teachings of Jesus and the New Testament writers that he favours some people above others. God is biased. His bias is to three groups of people: widows, orphans and refugees. These groups share one thing, they were powerless in the society at the time of writing. God says that he favours these people. In this blog I am concentrating on refugees.
God favours refugees, he has a heart that goes out to them. What follows will be very much a list of biblical passages about refugees, without much commentary from me. It is after all a blog, not a book. There is so much about this in the Bible this is just a small selection.
Stories about refugees
The whole of the story of Abraham is the story of a refugee, a man and his family who leave Ur and live as foreigners in an other land. Abraham also has to go to Egypt in a famine, so double refugee status there.
But there is a story within the Abraham story about his nephew Lot. Lot goes to live in Sodom. It is a long story, which can be found here. Three men come to Abraham, who is hospitable to them, then they go to Lot. Lot is hospitable, but the people of Sodom were not at all hospitable to Lot and his family or to their guests. The sin of Sodom, contrary to popular belief, was lack of hospitality to strangers, to foreigners.
This is what God said through the prophet Ezekiel:
Behold, this was the guilt of your sister Sodom: she and her daughters had pride, excess of food, and prosperous ease, but did not aid the poor and needy.
There is also the Babylonian captivity, the Jewish history in the Bible is full of them being refugees.
Jesus and his parents were refugees in Egypt fleeing from Herod’s massacre:
Now when they had departed, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, “Rise, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you, for Herod is about to search for the child, to destroy him.” And he rose and took the child and his mother by night and departed to Egypt and remained there until the death of Herod. This was to fulfil what the Lord had spoken by the prophet, “Out of Egypt I called my son.”
Remember you were refugees
The laws given to Moses said that refugees should be welcomed, have their basic needs met and given access to justice.
“You shall not oppress a sojourner. You know the heart of a sojourner, for you were sojourners in the land of Egypt.
“When a stranger sojourns with you in your land, you shall not do him wrong. 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.
“When you reap the harvest of your land, you shall not reap your field right up to its edge, neither shall you gather the gleanings after your harvest. And you shall not strip your vineyard bare, neither shall you gather the fallen grapes of your vineyard. You shall leave them for the poor and for the sojourner: I am the Lord your God.
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.
The prophets had something to say too. After the Babylonian exile Ezekiel said that all, foreigners included, were to get a share of the land.
“So you shall divide this land among you according to the tribes of Israel. You shall allot it as an inheritance for yourselves and for the sojourners who reside among you and have had children among you. They shall be to you as native-born children of Israel. With you they shall be allotted an inheritance among the tribes of Israel.
“Then I will draw near to you for judgement. I will be a swift witness against the sorcerers, against the adulterers, against those who swear falsely, against those who oppress the hired worker in his wages, the widow and the fatherless, against those who thrust aside the sojourner, and do not fear me, says the Lord of hosts.
You are refugees
The New Testament takes this further. We are refugees, citizens of Heaven, and aliens here on Earth.
So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord.
Let brotherly love continue. Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares.
But I’ll leave the last word to Jesus, showing how we are to treat even the lowest of people:
“When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne. Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. And he will place the sheep on his right, but the goats on the left. 34 Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, 36 I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’