For You Were Refugees...
My current Bible reading plan (this one) has me in Deuteronomy, among other places.
Ah, Deuteronomy...the book that reminds us not to boil a goat in its mothers milk, not to eat rock badgers (because they chew the cud but do not part the hoof) and how to respond when your axehead swings off accidentally and kills your neighbor.
Admittedly, this can be a confusing section of Scripture. I believe these detailed laws and rules are all pointing us to the holiness and "set-apart-ness" of our great God, and it is no small thing that Jesus actually quoted this book more than anything else in the Old Testament...but we sometimes may struggle to find day-to-day application of things like marrying female captives of war.
BUT - some things in Deuteronomy are crystal clear and so applicable we might be afraid to read them. Take Chapter 10:12-22, for instance. Meditate on it all when you get the chance, but for now let's look at verses 17-19:
For the Lord your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great, the mighty, and the awesome God, who is not partial and takes no bribe. 18 He executes justice for the fatherless and the widow, and loves the sojourner, giving him food and clothing. 19 Love the sojourner, therefore, for you were sojourners in the land of Egypt.
Do you see it? Here we are, in 2016, in the midst of an historic and unprecedented global refugee crisis, with an expected 85,000 people to be relocated to the United States this year and a total of almost 55 million migrant and displaced peoples around the world, and in the middle of Deuteronomy we have instructions for how to respond: love them.
God appeals to 1) His own character and 2) our former state and then commands us to love.
God is a God of justice and love, seen most clearly on the cross where those attributes meet perfectly. He executes justice for the fatherless and widow, and loves the sojourner (note that His love is expressed in caring for them physically with food and clothing).
What is a sojourner? The word in the Hebrew is defined as "a temporary inhabitant; a newcomer lacking inherited rights." A sojourner is a refugee.
As the chosen people of God, we are to reflect His nature and character in how we live and how we respond to situations and people. When people see our response to this crisis, they should see the heart of our God.
OUR FORMER STATE
God commands His people Israel to love the sojourner because they were sojourners in Egypt. And such were we.
The Bible tells us we were enemies of God, following the course of this world, dead in our trespasses and sins, but God (being rich in mercy) made us alive together with Him, by grace, through faith. We are temporary inhabitants on this earth and our only inheritance is death, but God adopted us as sons and the Spirit testifies that if we are sons then we are heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, having the full inheritance of the Son of God! Praise Him!
In light of that, God says, we must love and care for the refugee among us. If we truly understand where we came from, and how God loved and cared for us, we will respond in the same way to those around us.
ok, so what do I do?
- LEARN their stories here
- PRAY for them like this
- GIVE to organizations that are working among their communities
- WELCOME those that come here
And as you do...as you love the sojourner...realize that none of this is outside the sovereignty of our God. He is doing what He has always done throughout history - taking what the enemy meant for evil and using it for good and for His glory. What I hear from our partners like the IMB and Pioneers is that the greatest Spiritual fruit is being produced right now among displaced peoples and refugee communities. People who formerly had no access to the gospel at all (e.g., those in Syria or Iran) are coming to Christ in massive numbers, and we can barely keep up with enough Bibles to give out or enough mature believers to disciple the new believers.
As people are on the move, God is on the move, and He is drawing the sojourner out of darkness into His light, because He loves the refugee.