The first blog of this series introduced the plight of more than 65 million people displaced by conflict or natural disaster. They come from all over the world–third and even first-world nations, with stories of horrific persecution. Frequently, their most basic need is to tell their story. Their greatest hope lies in the capacity of the listener to hear them, show compassion and respond in kind.
Most of us would agree that we should help refugees. However, many also respond with hate and derision towards these “aliens.” The humane response of care and compassion for people whose lives are at risk should arise within everyone who hears and knows about refugees. This reaction reveals one’s inner character.
When in doubt, one look at the Bible should answer any confusion one may have. We are told to do to others as we would have done to ourselves. We are told to care for orphans, widows and refugees.
Exodus 22:21 & 23:9 reminds Jews and Christians we all have been sojourners (aliens) among foreign people. The Jews were aliens in Egypt.
Everyone alienates himself or herself from God when he or she sins until he or she accepts Jesus Christ as his Savior. Before accepting Jesus, every person is an alien. Yet, God shows compassion and kindness to all of us. The Bible is rife with scripture that reveals God’s nature towards aliens like you and me. [Leviticus 19:33-34, Jeremiah 22:3, and Deuteronomy 1:16, 5:14, 10:18-19, 14:29, 16:14, 24:14, 17, & 19-21, 26:12-13, 27:19, 29:10-12, & 31:12 speak of this, just to name a few.]
Mark 12:28-34, Matthew 5:42, 7:12, & 25:35-40, and Hebrews 13:2 teach us to love all people. John 14:15 records Jesus teaching we show our love for when we obey His commandments. Paul says, in Galatians 5:22-23, that Jesus gives us the power to love our neighbor by his indwelling Holy Spirit.
God’s natural and written Laws, and the laws of right and wrong should lead us to care for aliens with our God-enabled capacity for compassion and love. Each of us knows we should help refugees. Unfortunately, our ideas of help often lead us to require the refugee to acculturate. Though God wants all people to come to a saving knowledge of Him, He didn’t force the aliens in the Bible to become Jews before being helped by the Jews. His example should lead us to care for refugees despite their faith.
We should make refugees welcome, develop relationships with them, open our hearts to assist them, and learn from them–their culture, religion, family, language, customs, interests, and special celebrations. As our relationships grow, refugees are no longer “them,” but a part of “us.” We have a heart for them. They care for us. We build bridges. The goal is similar to marriage when a newly formed couple begins to accept the other’s background and co-opts what is most important for the spouse out of love for him or her. In this way, they become one. They celebrate together because they care for each other, and understand why the occasion is important for the spouse. The husband and wife become interdependent-interwoven.
The marriage of cultures is the ultimate example of how to live with refugees. It’s no longer a “them” versus “us” scenario, but a “we” – a life woven together. “We” share joy, pain, triumph, defeat, and life in common as we are knitted together. This process starts with us choosing to understand and help, and moves to accepting and living in communion as extended “family.”
We do this through intentional ministering. Begin with the refugee telling her need, but don’t stop there. Consider your heart and mind. Determine your need so you can accept the refugee. Become a woven fabric, a warp and weft, that makes you stronger and interdependent, and makes your community more colorful. One without the other is weak. Together, our warp and their weft build community and make it stronger.
Ways to Help Refugees
In what ways can we help refugees and asylum-seekers? The list of ideas is below.
- Courses such as English Second Language (ESL) and skills training
- Legal Aid
- Teaching resume/CV writing
- Medical clinics
- Trauma Counseling
- Feeding programs
- Spiritual counseling and teaching
For Christians, each of these ministries can express obedience to God to care for the alien, to love your neighbor. Caring for refugees from all nations is being in relationship; it’s loving your neighbor, yourself, and God.
Jesus said, “Do to others as you want done to you.” Put yourself in their place. If you had to run for your life to another country, what would you need? Would you want help or threats? Listen to your heart and God. Join refugees and be in relationship with them. Be warp to their weft. Become strong together, interdependent, caring for each other. Love them as God loves each of you. Just as God no longer considers you or me aliens, but part of His household (Ephesians 2:13-19), perhaps by living with and loving them, refugees will no longer be aliens, but become part of the family of God, too.