How Should We Think About Immigrants and Refugees?

2 Syrian Refugee Women

There are a lot of thoughts politically regarding what we should do with our border problems. But as a believer and follower of Jesus, how should we think about immigrants and refugees? First, we must realize that as God’s people we are sojourners and ‘strangers’ to the land. We see this with Abraham’s appeal to the Hittite Lord’s to give them a plot of land to bury his wife Sarah (Genesis 23:3-4). The New Testament also gives Jesus followers the monikers of ‘resident aliens‘ (Sojourners) and ‘strangers’ in 1 Peter 2:11 and “strangers and exiles” in Hebrews 11:13. The words used in these verses show that God’s people are foreigners and immigrants in the countries they live in. We are residents of the Kingdom of God, and Ambassadors to the countries we live in. A good ambassador will love the country he/she is living in, but their number one job is to represent well the kingdom they are sent from. This should give us some pause when we post on our social media.

The bible doesn’t end there in regard to foreigners, the Old Testament has a lot to say about the treatment of refugees, strangers and ‘sojourners.’ We are told not to oppress a sojourner (Exodus 23:9), and instead Israel was to ‘love’ the sojourner (Leviticus 19:34; Deuteronomy 10:19). According to Psalms 146:9, “The LORD watches over the sojourners.” As a matter of fact, the Old Testament law made it possible for sojourners and the poor to eat, by restricting the harvest (Leviticus 19:9-10). This would have had an economic impact on Israel, but in God’s economy, the refugee, immigrant and poor are more important than making as much money as you can.

So how does this all begin to answer the question of this article? Well, other than the few references to the Old Testament law, God’s concern seems to be motivated by what God has done for His people, rather than a political opinion. God’s command to love the sojourner is motivated by the reality that Israel was at one time enslaved sojourners in Egypt and God delivered them from their slavery, much like Jesus who, “though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich” (2 Corinthians 8:9). We aren’t motivated by what politics deems to be correct. We are motivated and compelled to act based on God’s love for us, and His actions toward us, and His grace compels us to be gracious to refugees and immigrants.

It was great being with a loving church in Amman, Jordan for the past 2 weeks and serving Syrian refugees who have flocked into this small city since the war started in 2011. I’ve heard so much rhetoric about our own borders, and the most frustrating thing is how Christians have communicated their disdain for their neighboring immigrants, many who have hellish stories, much like the Syrians have. Alliance Church didn’t feel that their country was the focus when over 150,000 refugees poured into their city, they just acted in love, and have done everything they can to make their neighbors feel welcome, even though, the average Jordanian wants them to go home, much like the average American. Jesus taught the parable of the “Good Samaritan” in Luke 10, reminding us that our ‘neighbor‘ is anyone in need. I pray that the church in America, can can offer the same help without the “Go Home” political rhetoric that wreaks of nationalism, and a lack of love, more than it does the command of Jesus to ‘love the sojourner.’

“We see your love for us”

Syrian Man We Visited

The reality is, we have learned more about love and hospitality from the Syrian Refugees than they can learn from us. We act on Jesus’ love and His gospel call on our lives, but we are blessed by the lives of those we serve!

Check out my Podcast interviewing the Jordanian pastor regarding their mission to love refugees in Jordan, in spite of a general disdain of Jordanians for the refugees.

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