"For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in." Matthew 25:35
A few years ago our news feeds were filled with the horrendous plight of millions fleeing the Syrian civil war. People were driven from their homes and forced to walk across much of Europe seeking shelter, or to settle into makeshift refugee camps, many of which are still in operation. Doctors and lawyers, mechanics and shopkeepers, grandparents and children were all forced into the life of a refugee, the life of a "stranger."
The Bible has quite a lot to say about refugees. Depending on the translation, you will find the terms "stranger," "sojourner," or "alien." Additionally, the phrase "foreigner in your midst" appears repeatedly, referring to immigrants of any sort. What we find is that care for refugees and immigrants is something that is deeply embedded in the Law.
The heart of the Father is revealed in the law, and His heart is for the most vulnerable.
God commands the Israelites in no uncertain terms to "love the stranger" (Deut. 10:19), and to support them (Lev. 25:35). We find that there are three groups that are offered preferential treatment: the widow, the orphan, and the stranger (Deut 10:18). The heart of the Father is revealed in the law, and His heart is for the most vulnerable. It is interesting that immigrants are included on a list with widows and orphans. Particularly for refugees, we find that these are people who are often entirely without resources, alone in a foreign country. They have fled war or persecution. They are scared and alone.
This is why God commands His people to receive and to care for such people. To be clear, He is quite serious about this. For example, Israel was chastised severely for not properly caring for immigrants (Ezek. 22:29), and oppressing the stranger is listed aa part of an overall rejection of God and His commandments. The Lord Jesus Himself reaffirms this ethic in His image of separating the "sheep and the goats" in Matthew 25. He describes two groups, the first of which is blessed by the Father. He says:
"For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in." v. 35
He goes on to clarify that if you did (or did not) do it to the "least of these," then you did (or did not) do it to Jesus Himself! We all know what happened to the second group. They did not feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, or welcome the stranger. His response to this group is not pleasant:
"Depart from me, you who are cursed..." v. 41
In short, we as the global body of Christ have the responsibility, duty, and privilege to be His hands and feet to welcome refugees, demonstrate His love, and to proclaim the Gospel to those who are vulnerable, scared, and alone. As the current refugee crisis from Afghanistan unfolds, we again have the opportunity to be there for Jesus as He is hungry and thirsty. We have the opportunity to clothe Him as He is cold and shivering. We get the mighty privilege to welcome Jesus Himself as an immigrant who needs our care, our compassion, and our shelter.
Lord, may we fulfill that call...
In addition to international student outreach and mission to the Muslim world, P28 Global Ministries is also involved in serving refugee populations. If you would like to help fund these efforts, please visit our donation page at https://www.p28global.com/donate