Humor me here. If you were God. And you were planning on coming to earth. What kind of role would you take on in society?
Would you be a wealthy CEO?
A powerful politician?
A celebrity rapper with a cooking show?
Or would you choose to become a poor child, on the run from violence and oppression?
I reckon there is something PROFOUNDLY significant about the fact that God's own son walked this earth as an undocumented child refugee.
This was no accident.
It was part of the divine plan all along. He could have been born and lived as a prince, a wealthy landowner or the Chief Priest. But instead He chose to become a refugee - forever linking himself with the most vulnerable people on earth:
Now after they had left, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, “Get up, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you; for Herod is about to search for the child, to destroy him.”
Then Joseph got up, took the child and his mother by night, and went to Egypt, and remained there until the death of Herod.”
Matthew 2: 13-15
So, God's heart is very much for the refugee. His own Son chose to become a refugee. To the point where Jesus proclaimed that, "I was a stranger and you welcomed me in."
Whatever you do for refugees you do for Him.
Your posture towards the “caravan” of refugees is your heart’s posture towards Jesus.
He even calls them his "little bros" as a reminder that those who suffer should be considered as family members that you woud invite over for Thanksgiving or a BBQ (Matthew 25:40).
There are few themes repeated in Scripture more than the call to care for the orphan, the widow and the alien (or foreigner):
“So you, too, must show love to FOREIGNERS, for you yourselves were once FOREIGNERS in the land of Egypt.” Deuteronomy 10:19
“Cursed is he who distorts the justice due a FOREIGNER, orphan, and widow. And all the people shall say, 'Amen.'“ Deuteronomy 27:19
“Then I will draw near to you for judgment…against those who oppress the wage earner in his wages, the widow and the orphan, and those who turn aside the FOREIGNER and do not fear Me," says the LORD of hosts. Malachi 3:5
"When you reap your harvest in your field and have forgotten a sheaf in the field, you shall not go back to get it; it shall be for the FOREIGNER, for the orphan, and for the widow, in order that the LORD your God may bless you in all the work of your
So, how then should you and I respond, practically speaking, to what seems like an overwhelming refugee crisis?
There are 4 actions, I think, that would be Biblical, Christ-like responses to the humanitarian crisis that is currently unfolding. These are the ways I would want folks to respond if my own child or spouse were still caught up in this refugee crisis:
1. Speak Truth to Power
Donald Trump wants to build a bigger wall. This, on top of the 21,000 Border Patrol Agents that already patrol the US-Mexico border and $3.7 billion dollars a year spent supporting their efforts to shut out the poor and the desperate (billions of dollars that could have otherwise been spent relieving poverty in the region).
Ironically, some of these undocumented children are actually named Jesus (as well as Jose, Pablo and Juan)! And still we are blind to what God is saying.
Where is the Christian outrage over politicians who spout Bible verses with one breath and try to outdo each other with their anti-immigrant (anti-Jesus) rhetoric with the next? Why are Christians so ready to embrace conspiracy theories and lies about the caravan?
Where is the Christian voice for our refugee brothers and sisters?
Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves,
for the rights of all who are destitute.
Speak up and judge fairly;
defend the rights of the poor and needy. (Proverbs 31:8-9)
2. Embrace Non-Violence
This refugee crisis has not arisen in a vacuum. It didn't come from nowhere. It has emerged because of decades of military intervention and violence in the region. This current caravan is a direct result of US actions in Honduras.
I don't have space to draw these connections for you within this short post, but simply consider this question - where does anger and bitterness (the things that lead to violence) come from? It comes from past hurts, fear of others and woundedness. Those hurts and fears can only be healed by love, reconciliation and forgiveness - not military strikes and violent suppression. Hatred cannot be transformed by the fist, or at the end of the barrel of a gun.
If we Christians don't lead the way in this, who will? As followers of Jesus, we need to be a radical voice for non-violence and enemy-love. No matter what they do to us. The way of the Prince of Peace is truly the only hope for the world now. I am not talking about passivity, but creativity. Radical love is this: laying down our lives for our enemies.
3. Practice Radical Hospitality
My wife Nay fled the murderous Khmer Rouge regime as a child. Let me assure you, that when they escaped by hiding in a fertilizer truck and hiking through the jungle, they had no thoughts of “legal immigration” anywhere, or carefully joining some orderly queue for entry into another country. They were desperately fleeing for their very lives.
I'm grateful for the Christians who welcomed Nay and her family into their homes and church. I'm grateful for the radical hospitality that was extended towards her family, after they had suffered unspeakable pain. That love and acceptance made a massive difference in her life and faith journey.
They lived this scripture:
The alien who resides with you shall be to you as the citizen among you; you shall love the alien as yourself, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God. (Leviticus 19:34)
What could you practically do to demonstrate the welcome of Christ towards refugees this week?
4. Face your Fears
Ultimately, when it comes down to the reality of welcoming refugees you will come face to face with your deepest fears:
that your jobs might be taken
that your nation will change
that your community will look different
that resources will be spread more thinly
that you will no longer be part of a demographic majority
that Christians will no longer be a majority.
But what do these fears reflect, but an unhealthy attachment to power, comfort and control? We enjoy being the majority. We love the privilege that comes from being in power. We love having more than we need to meet our basic needs.
But is that what Jesus has called us to grasp for? Has He not called us to lay down our lives for others? To love our neighbour, no matter what the cost?
There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear. (1 John 4:18)
Surely, this is a difficult calling. Only love can overcome fear. And that is why I appeal to you on the basis of relationship and familial ties. What if that refugee child were your own flesh and blood? What if they were your own son or daughter? What mountain would you not climb? What politician would you not lobby? What price would you not pay to see them brought to safety?
Only the kind of love we usually reserve for family can overcome the fear and selfishness that teaches us to close our doors and turn away from their plight. But Jesus calls us to a different way, the way of peace, radical welcome and laying down our lives for others.
Will you allow that love to compel you towards action today?
[By the way, because I always get this push-back… Yes I have gladly welcomed many refugees in to my own home, including of different religions]