Refugees and the Bible

Q. What does the Bible say about how we should treat refugees?

A. In view of real and fake refugees requiring wisdom to discern how we should relate to each, neither the open door policy welcoming all, nor the closed-door barring anyone from entry, seem appropriate. The word “refugee” appears only 6 times in the NASB, but as narrative, not prescriptive. However, there are equivalent terms such as aliens, strangers etc. that yield principles governing the way to relate to them. Since there are too many verses I will not list all of them, only the key ideas.

Alien – a person who sojourns among the native people:
Lev 19:34 The stranger who resides with you shall be to you as the native among you, and you shall love him as yourself, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt; I am the LORD your God.
• Lev 23:22 When you reap the harvest of your land, moreover, you shall not reap to the very corners of your field nor gather the gleaning of your harvest; you are to leave them for the needy and the alien. I am the LORD your God. (Also Lev 19:10; Deut 24:19-21)
• Num 15:16 There is to be one law and one ordinance for you and for the alien who sojourns with you. (Also Ex 12:49; Lev 24:22; Num 15:29)
• Deut 10:18-19 He executes justice for the orphan and the widow, and shows His love for the alien by giving him food and clothing. So show your love for the alien, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt.

Stranger
Ex 22:21 You shall not wrong a stranger or oppress him, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt. (Also Ex 23:9; Lev 19:33)
• Ps 146:9 The LORD protects the strangers; He supports the fatherless and the widow, But He thwarts the way of the wicked.
• Zech 7:10 and do not oppress the widow or the orphan, the stranger or the poor; and do not devise evil in your hearts against one another.
• Mt 25:35 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;
• Heb 13:2 Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by this some have entertained angels without knowing it. (Also 1 Tim 5:10)

Real refugees are those forced to leave their homeland due to war, natural disaster, or persecution. They sojourn in foreign lands in search of security, where they are aliens and strangers. Natives should love them as themselves, give alms to them because they are needy, and treat them as they would other natives. They should not wrong or oppress refugees, but show hospitality to them by inviting them in, because the LORD protects them.

Fake refugees, however, are to be prosecuted just as any native law-breaker, because there is one law for the native and the alien. Ideally they should be screened before entry and kept out of the country. If any slipped through the security net, they need to be caught before they cause damage, and punished according to the law of the land.

Advertisements

Muslim Refugees?

Q. I had a brief discussion with a Christian lady. She thinks we Christians have to help Muslims as they need our help. I told her about the European countries which received and helped them, and were repaid with violence and welfare abuse by the Muslims. They want to take over the countries which let them in, and do not assimilate. They want to convert people to Islam, change the place into an Islamic state, and impose Sharia law. They resort to violence, riots, and terrorism. They abuse the welfare system, and drain the countries’ resources. I quoted Deut 7:2-5 and Mt 10:16 to her. Why did God want all Canaanites killed? If I apply Deut 7:2-5, would God want us to embrace these Muslims to love them, because God is love? I feel if I apply Mt 10:16 to refugees, we are to have love but also wisdom.

A. First, I think we need to make a distinction between real refugees forced to leave their country to escape war, natural disaster or persecution, and those coming under a pretense to perpetrate terrorism, create havoc, and cause disruption to overthrow and destroy. I don’t have statistics to prove it, but I expect the former to be in the majority, and the latter to be in the minority. Unfortunately, it’s the minority extremists that cause most of the problems and give a bad name to the whole. You’ve probably met people who claim all Christians are bigots and cause all the problems in the world, such as the crusades, the Inquisition, inciting hatred against LGBTQ etc. That’s not true, but the label that Christians are self-righteous snobs sticks, and you wished people knew better.

Like you, I deplore the fake refugees’ abuses of the system which showed them kindness. But I would not apply Deut 7:2-5 to Muslim refugees, because that’s misapplying Scripture. First, let’s examine the text:

Deut 7:1-5 “When the LORD your God brings you into the land where you are entering to possess it, and clears away many nations before you, the Hittites and the Girgashites and the Amorites and the Canaanites and the Perizzites and the Hivites and the Jebusites, seven nations greater and stronger than you,
• 2 and when the LORD your God delivers them before you and you defeat them, then you shall utterly destroy them. You shall make no covenant with them and show no favor to them.
• 3 Furthermore, you shall not intermarry with them; you shall not give your daughters to their sons, nor shall you take their daughters for your sons.
• 4 For they will turn your sons away from following Me to serve other gods; then the anger of the LORD will be kindled against you and He will quickly destroy you.
• 5 But thus you shall do to them: you shall tear down their altars, and smash their sacred pillars, and hew down their Asherim, and burn their graven images with fire.

From what you wrote, you are equating:
• Present day Muslim refugees = the seven nations living in the Promised land in OT times, and
• Current “Christian” nations= the ancient Israelites who utterly destroyed the nations to take over the land.

While there are similarities e.g. they will turn your sons (i.e. radicalizing youths) away from following Me (Yahweh) to serve other gods (Allah), there are also differences e.g. they are migrants, NOT nations greater and stronger than you (i.e. the European countries to which they escaped). In fact, the radical refugees see the analogy as:
• Present day Muslim refugees = the ancient Israelites in the minority, and
• Current “Christian” nations = the nations whom they are to utterly destroy to take over the land.
They would be wrong of course, but you can see how by misapplying Scripture you can twist it to justify any wrong action.

What we need, as you rightly pointed out, is both love and wisdom:
Mt 10:16 Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves; so be shrewd as serpents and innocent as doves. (NASB)
We need to be as wise as serpents, and as harmless as doves, with no self-serving agenda (AMP). Our love need to abound more and more in real knowledge and all discernment (Php 1:9). Only then can we discern who are the real refugees that need our help, and screen out the extremists that need to be blocked from harming our people.

Who Can Serve?

women at crucifixion 1

Some Christians think that to be effective in ministry, you need to be a “somebody”, someone who is known, an expert in their specialty. Otherwise they will be just wasting time, putting in the effort but not having much results to show for it. The world works that way, but not with God’s Kingdom, which is upside-down compared to the world. Let’s take a look at the women at the cross:

* Mt 27:55-56 Many women were there looking on from a distance, who had followed Jesus from Galilee while ministering to Him. Among them was Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James and Joseph, and the mother of the sons of Zebedee.
* Mk 15:40 There were also some women looking on from a distance, among whom were Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James the Less and Joses, and Salome. When He was in Galilee, they used to follow Him and minister to Him; and there were many other women who came up with Him to Jerusalem.
* Jn 19:25 But standing by the cross of Jesus were His mother, and His mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene.

Six are named, including:
1. Mary Magdalene,
2. Mary the mother of James and Joseph,
3. Mary the mother of James the Less (James Alphaeus) and Joses,
4. Salome,
5. Mary the Lord’s mother,
6. Mary the wife of Clopas,
Two are identified but not named:
7. Mother of the sons of Zebedee (# 3?),
8. The Lord’s mother’s sister.

Since Matthew, Mark and John may call the same person by different names, some of the above may in fact be the same person. However, all of them were women, who did not enjoy equal status to men in Jesus’ days. Except for John, none of the apostles were at the Lord’s crucifixion. They were hiding for fear of the Jews and the Roman soldiers. There were no VIPs at the cross.

And besides Mary the Lord’s mother, what we know about some of them are unflattering. For example, Jesus cast out seven demons from Mary Magdalene (Mk 16:9, Lk 8:2). She had a checkered past. The wife of Zebedee requested Jesus to let her two sons sit on His right and left (Mt 20:20-21). She had selfish ambition. The others are unknowns, nobodies in this world. None is perfect or a big shot.

For that matter, there were many women who weren’t even identified, except that they all followed Jesus and ministered to Him. As a matter of fact, the qualification for ministering to Him was that they followed Him. Nothing more, nothing less. You do not need to be a “somebody”, just a humble heart willing to learn, and to serve in whatever way you can.

nothing is wasted 6

You may think you have no skills to offer, but in our Lord’s hands nothing is wasted. He will take our spiritual gifts, our heart desires, abilities, personality and experiences and custom fit a ministry where we can serve Him, provided we are willing and make ourselves available. So put yourself in His hands, and see what God has in wait for you. You’ll be glad you did.

Sharing Rewards

1 Sam 30 24 b

When we share our mission trips with brothers and sisters, sometimes the seniors would tell us, “We love to go too, but we are old and can’t do anything now.” Others say “We like to join you, but we have a full-time job and just can’t get away.” Besides asking them to pray, which is a most vital part of short-term missions, often our response is “If you can’t go yourself, send someone who can. Support them as your representatives. The LORD rewards GOERS and SENDERS alike.”

There is a principle in the OT. While David and his men were away, the Amalekites attacked Ziglag and took their families captive. David pursued until some of his men were too exhausted and remained behind. The others pressed on, rescued their wives and children, and recovered everything, in addition to taking spoils from the enemy. When they distributed the loot, those who fought did not want to share with those who stayed with the baggage. But David said:
1 Sam 30:24 For as his share is who goes down to the battle, so shall his share be who stays by the baggage; they shall share alike.

This principle is repeated in the NT. The Lord Himself taught:
Mt 10:41-42 He who receives a prophet in the name of a prophet shall receive a prophet’s reward; and he who receives a righteous man in the name of a righteous man shall receive a righteous man’s reward. And whoever in the name of a disciple gives to one of these little ones even a cup of cold water to drink, truly I say to you, he shall not lose his reward.

Matthew 10 42 c

Usually we focus only on the ones who go, but not the Lord. He rewards GOERS and RECEIVERS alike. By extension we believe He rewards SENDERS as well as GOERS. So if you can’t go this time, support others who can. Next time they may support you. All will share in the joy and the reward in serving Kingdom ministry.

Wanted: Team Players

team player 3

We are always on the lookout for good coworkers, whether full-time, part-time, or volunteers. Besides loving God and people, both fellow Christians and non-believers, one of the criteria we use is that they be team-players. What does that mean? While people have different definitions, to us it means at least 5 things:

1. He must be honest and trustworthy. Of course being able or smart is good, but what good is his ability if you can’t trust him. In fact, the smarter an untrustworthy person is, the more cautious you need to become.

2. He must appreciate others work styles, and not insists his way is the only way. Some people consider his way is the best and all others are not good. That may be true sometimes, but it puts down all his colleagues and won’t enhance relationships.

3. He avoids politics. Some promote only themselves, self-aggrandizement at others’ expense. Others put their own interest ahead of the well-being of the community. That’s a no-no. They need to put others ahead of themselves.

4. He adapts quickly. Some are stubborn but label themselves as having strong convictions. But names don’t fool those who are discerning. We need people strong on principles but flexible in methods. Rigidity does not help anyone.

5. He meets deadline. Team members depend on each other doing their part on time. We don’t want people who are always the bottleneck and hold everybody up. Good team players do that.

Others believe a team player must be a Teachable, Energetic, Achiever and Mission-focused. These are good leadership qualities but the above should be minimum requirements.

Mission Trips

mission trips 3

One of the things we encourage Christians to do to widen their horizon and learn about God’s work worldwide is to take a mission trip and experience it for themselves. For some, it’s an eye-opening and heart-opening experience that they will not learn even if they have been Christians for years, had they stayed within the confines of their own church. For others, it changed the direction of their life mission such that they become outward instead of inward focused. At the very least, many become more supportive of missions, both in terms of prayer and finances.

Yet some remain hesitant, feeling that they are not gifted evangelistically, nor are they bible teachers, so what could they offer? This is a common misunderstanding about the nature of mission trips, about what they can give as opposed to what they can learn from such an experience. True, if you know how to share the gospel and can nurture young believers, that would be a great contribution toward a mission team. However, what the participant receive from the trip is just as important. We expect team members to be learners, not experts who are there to solve all the problems their hosts are facing. Expertise is good, but not essential to the success of the endeavor.

Mark 4 26-27 a

In the Parable of the seed:
* Mk 4:26-29 And He was saying, “The kingdom of God is like a man who casts seed upon the soil; and he goes to bed at night and gets up by day, and the seed sprouts and grows—how, he himself does not know. The soil produces crops by itself; first the blade, then the head, then the mature grain in the head. But when the crop permits, he immediately puts in the sickle, because the harvest has come.”

All the man did was to cast seeds and put in the sickle, presumably watering in between. But how the crop grows, he did not know. It grew by itself. Similarly our job is to sow and harvest, we don’t need to know everything. God grows the harvest naturally.

1 Corinthians 3 7-9

Within the Church:
* 1 Co 3:6-9 I planted, Apollos watered, but God was causing the growth. So then neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but God who causes the growth. Now he who plants and he who waters are one; but each will receive his own reward according to his own labor. For we are God’s fellow workers; you are God’s field, God’s building.

Some sow, some nurture, but God causes the growth. What each individual member does is not the most important thing. What’s important is that we are God’s fellow workers, and God will cause the growth. So don’t get too hung up about your particular ministry. As all of us do our part, the work will get done collectively.

ability availability 4

Let me conclude by quoting Neil Maxwell, “God does not begin by asking us about our ability, but only about our availability, and if we then prove our dependability, He will increase our capability.” Are you available? If you are, He is able. Prove yourself dependable. He will make you capable.

Satan’s Schemes

As we visited mission fields in three continents, we noticed that while the missionaries worked very hard to advance God’s kingdom, Satan worked just as hard to tear their work down.

* 2 Co 2:11 so that no advantage would be taken of us by Satan, for we are not ignorant of his schemes.
* Eph 6:11 Put on the full armor of God, so that you will be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil.

divide conquer 6

One of the schemes he used very effectively is to spread strife, to divide and conquer:
* Prov 6:14 Who with perversity in his heart continually devises evil, Who spreads strife.
* Prov 6:19 A false witness who utters lies, And one who spreads strife among brothers.
* Prov 16:28 A perverse man spreads strife, And a slanderer separates intimate friends.

There is a Chinese proverb (鹬蚌相争,渔翁得利) which tells a story about a clam sunning himself on the beach. A sandpiper comes along, sees the open clam and a big meal waiting, tries to pick her fleshy dinner. The clam quickly closes his shell to protect himself, with the sandpiper’s beak caught in between. Neither side wants to give in, until a fisherman comes along, sees them engaged in a bitter tussle, and easily captures both of them. The moral of the parable? When two parties fight, a third-party benefits.

third party benefits 1

The devil utters lies to sow discord among brothers, separating even intimate friends. When brothers and sisters fight among themselves, Satan can just fold his arms and watch the church fall apart. She will waste her time and energy arguing over trivial issues, while important matters like evangelism, making disciples and loving one another get ignored.

house divided 7

The Lord Himself taught:
* Mk 3:25 If a house is divided against itself, that house will not be able to stand. (Mt 12:25, Lk 11:17)

Yet Christians everywhere fall into Satan’s trap. Be warned. Watch and pray:
* Jn 13:35 By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.”