What the Bible says about refugees

Donald Trump’s executive order denying refugees and immigrants from predominantly Muslim countries entry into the United States has led to widespread outcry across the political spectrum. Despite promises, even Christian refugees have been turned away from the United States. Being a nation of immigrants, this policy is antithetical to the notion that America is the land of liberty and freedom.  Politically and morally, policies and provisions that exclude a religious group is ethically wrong.

For Christians, such rejection of refugees and those seeking safety runs counter to what we read in the Bible. Here’s what we discover in the Bible on refugees, strangers and political aliens:  

God’s people were aliens and refugees. The story of Exodus is the story of God’s people without a land and without a home. God delivered the Israelites because “he heard their cry.” The Babylonian Exile deported the Israelites from their home. Their culture and place of worship were destroyed. God promised to redeem his people. Even Moses taught the people, “Do not mistreat an alien or oppress him, for you were aliens in Egypt” (Exodus 22).

God compels us to care for strangers. The story of the Good Samaritan is Jesus’ way of saying, “Hey, remember that Jews and Samaritans don’t get along; well, I’m going tell you about a story of how you have to care for people. Even those who you despise.” Samaritans were persona non grata in Jewish circles. The reality is, if we claim to be a Christian, or even claim we have a Christian nation, our duty and responsibility is to care for those in need.

Jesus called for his followers to care for the least. In Matthew 25, the nations are gathered and the righteous wondered when the King (Jesus) was sick, imprisoned or a stranger. The reply is, “I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these, you did for me.” Jesus serves as the final authority of how we are to greet and care for the least of these.

Women and children are of special concern. In wars, famine and civil conflict, women and children are often the most displaced. James writes to scattered people, “Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.” In the ancient world, if a father or husband died and had no brother, his children and wife were left without protection.

The leaders of World Vision, National Association of Evangelicals, National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference, and World Relief wrote a letter to Donald Trump expounding on the biblical call for care of refugees…

The Bible teaches us that each person — including each refugee, regardless of their country of origin, religious background, or any other qualifier — is made in the Image of God, with inherent dignity and potential. Their lives matter to God, and they matter to us. While the U.S. has in recent years received only a fraction of 1 percent of the world’s refugees annually, we believe the refugee resettlement program provides a lifeline to these uniquely vulnerable individuals and a vital opportunity for our churches to live out the biblical commands to love our neighbors, to make disciples of all nations, and to practice hospitality.

As thousands of refugees flee countries like Syria, they are a people without a land. They are aliens without a home. Refugees are strangers to us who have a culture, language and religion different from us. They are the least of these. They are men, women and children who are in need of a new place to call home. This “Christian nation” is called by scripture to care for the oppressed, the alien, and refugee.

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