Before We Form an Opinion about Refugees, Let’s Do Some Bible Research

Refugees in Moabit, Berlin, Germany

Refugees in Moabit, Berlin, Germany

There have been refugees since the first man and woman, Adam and Eve, sinned, and were kicked out of the Garden, until now, with there being around 19 millions refugees counted at the end of 2014. A result of uncontrolled illegitimate power, war, and greed has left the world with displaced peoples to fend for their lives in foreign territories. The world is buzzing with opinions about Syrian refugees, and nations like the U.S., Canada, Australia, and other EU nations are being pressed with the question of whether they should admit Syrian refugees, and if so, which ones and how many.

Not many people like to read and research. People will sit, listen, and let media pundits form their opinions. I think as Christians, instead of starting the discussion around what we hear around us in the news or from politicians- because international politics is messy, bureaucratic, and complicated- I think we should firstly, pray to God to give us wisdom and discernment about how we should be feeling about refugees as individuals, then we need to ask ourselves a few personal example questions that I put below, and then we need to uplift our leaders in prayer that they make the best possible and righteous decisions as they lead.

Made in the image of God?

Then God said, “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.” So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them. God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground.”
— Genesis 1:26-28

When God states that all humans, men and women, are made in His image, He is saying that it is a privilege is for all people to be considered and treated as human, and that they should not be limited to any sort of class. According to M. Daniel Carroll R., a Mennonite professor, “The implications for immigration [refugees] are immense, because it makes plain that outsiders also are created in the divine image. The image of God allows the conversation to be framed around a core belief in immigrants [refugees] as people, created with value and with the capacity to impact society positively.”

Who were some Old Testament refugees?

The more one studies this topic, the more it becomes evident that the Old Testament is in part a collection of stories of migration and displaced peoples.
— M. Daniel Carroll R.

1). Cain (Genesis 4: 10-14)

2). God at Babel (Genesis 10 -11)

3). Terah leaves Ur and goes to Haran, and Abram migrates from there to Canaan (Genesis 11: 31 – 12:5)

4). Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob along with their families leave their homes to settle in different places because of the lack of food in Egypt. Their history is one of constant migration. (Genesis 12, 42-46)

-The Negev (Genesis 20)

-Philistia (Genesis 26)

5). Joseph (Genesis 37)

6). Moses (Exodus 2)

7). Naomi (Ruth 1-2)

8). Daniel

9). Esther

10). Nehemiah

11). Ezra

12). Jeremiah

What has God said about refugees?

When the Israelites won battles and took the leftover loot from their win they often had new slaves in their possession. There were non-Israelite people that exited Egypt with the Israelites and found refuge with them in the wilderness, and who entered the Promise Land with them as well.

So what rights and privileges did these refugees have amongst the Israelites?

  • New slaves or refugees were granted gleaning privileges at harvest (Leviticus 19:10, Deuteronomy 24: 19-22, Ruth 2-3).
  • They had to tithe to God (Deuteronomy 14: 28-29).
  • They too rested on the Sabbath (Exodus 20: 10, Deuteronomy 5:14).
  • They had to be paid a fair wage on time (Deuteronomy 24: 14-15).
  • They were granted equal treatment before the law (Deuteronomy 1:16-17; 27:19).
  • Prophets were able to weigh in on the oppressive treatment of slaves/ refugees (Jeremiah 7:5 -7; 22: 2-5, Malachi 3:5).
  • They were also granted the right to take part in Israel’s rituals and religious life (Exodus 20: 8-11, 12:48-49, Leviticus 16: 29-30, Deuteronomy 16: 11, 14).
He executes justice for the fatherless and the widow, and loves the sojourner, giving him food and clothing. Love the sojourner, therefore, for you were sojourners in the land of Egypt.
— Deuteronomy 10: 18-19
The Lord watches over the sojourners; He upholds the widow and the fatherless, but the way of the wicked he brings to ruin.
— Psalm 146: 9

You find similar language in Jeremiah 7: 4-8 and Zechariah 7: 8-10. God has a heart for the slave and the refugee. He also has no favorites. His people, the Israelites were a refuge seeking, sojourning people and He reminds them of that in Leviticus 25: 23. But refugees who lived among the Israelites had to assimilate in that they had to convert to the faith of Israel, learn how to perform rituals, and speak Hebrew.

Why would God allow for refugees to live among His people? God looked at Abraham and saw his heart, and saw that it was safe to make a nation from Abraham and Sarah. God wanted His own special people, His possession to be different from the other pagan peoples who surrounded Abraham and Sarah. God allowed for refugees so that they would be a witness to the surrounding peoples of the character of God and the fundamental values that make for a healthy society, because He, God, was their leader and protector.

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I can’t do anything to stop terrorism, whether it’s from IS in the Middle East causing havoc in the U.S. or Europe, to the Irish National Liberation Army in Great Britain, or to Boko Haram in Nigeria. We can’t do anything to fight ideologies and thought processes that stem from powers in the unseen world (Ephesians 6:12). I’ll leave that to God, the U.S. Marines and foreign governmental intelligence agencies.

Is sealing our borders and taking in fewer than we can actually handle the best way to respond? We as Christians do not have to live in fear of terrorism. God was in Paris last Friday night, just like he was in Beirut, Baghdad, and Lebanon. He was in NYC, DC, and that field in Pennsylvania on 9/11. But why should I make the work of Satan’s hands bigger than my God? The world is a scary place but we have been called to go into it and love it by being the hands and feet of Jesus, and sometimes that means letting in a group of displaced people to take refuge in our nations.

***Inspiration from this post came from Dr. M. Daniel Carroll R., Professor of the Old Testament at Denver Seminary.