“The LORD protects the foreigners among us. He cares for the orphans and widows…” Psalm 146:9
“…I was a stranger and you welcomed me.” Matthew 25:31-46
Listen to: John Denver, Falling Leaves (The Refugees)
Last week the world was galvanized at the image of the lifeless body of three - year-old Aylan Kurdi washed up on the Turkish shoreline. Whatever the truth behind little Aylan’s death is, Syria is facing the greatest refugee crisis since World War II. As a human community, we face moral questions about how to respond to the needs of refugees. The statistics of the United Nation are sobering: there are 19.5 million refugees in 2014; over half are under 18 years old.
There probably has never been a time in human history when human beings haven’t been on the move, either seeking a better life or seeking safety. In the scriptures we have the story of Adam and Eve’s expulsion from Paradise. At the very end of the Bible in the book of Revelation we find the disciple John exiled to the island of Patmos where he received his famous visions. Even Jesus’ family had to flee to Egypt from King Herod who planned to murder to him (Matt.2). The f undamental stories of the Christian faith describe a God who calls his people out to a new land, to a new place, who calls us from slavery to freedom, to hope and blessing.
God also insists that his people do not forget where his people came from. When they offer their first fruits, they are to recite, “A wandering Aramean was my ancestor…” (Deut. 26:5). They are to remember that God commands: …You shall also love the stranger, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt.” (Deut. 10:18-19). The prophets reinforce this. It is a key pillar of Christian practice. The "mark of the true Christian” Paul writes is to“…extend hospitality to the stranger.” Romans 12:13.
We live in a very mobile time. We still have a God who calls us out to freedom, hope and blessing. Most of us are fortunate that we can move for better opportunities, for education to secure better healthcare or the job of our dreams. We have opportunities to travel and vacation in lands that would have been unheard of a century ago. Even if we live hundreds of miles of away from loved ones, technology makes it possible to be in touch instantly and to arrive within hours. All these gifts are part of the blessings God promised way back to Abram, when he promised to bless all the nations through him.
Still God reminds us. Do not forget where you have come from. Do not forget the stranger. Out of our great blessing let us help those who are seeking a better life. It is a privileged part of the spiritual life to give back: so let us give to those families displaced by war, conflict, famine or disease. By doing so we extend the blessing. We have been given so much, so let us bless another’s another. Who knows? As it is written in Hebrews: “Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by doing that some have entertained angels without knowing it (13:1-2).
Looking for a good charity to donate to that works with refugees? Here are some top-rated ones: https://www.charitywatch.org/charitywatch-hot-topic/iraq-crisis-support/17
Pray: God Who Is Refuge, thank you for the care you give us. May we in turn care for those who need help; a home, shelter, food, clothing, safety. Show us how to be your compassionate presence in our world today.