God’s salvation story revealed in the Bible is full of stories of refugees. It is a fair observation to say that God is on the side of refugees. I will explain. Leviticus 19:33-34 (NAB) reads,
You shall treat the alien who resides with you no differently than the natives born among you; you shall love the alien as yourself; for you too were once aliens in the land of Egypt. I, the Lord, am your God. When an alien resides with you in your land, do not mistreat such a one.
The book of Genesis, the first book of the Bible, tells the story of how God’s chosen people, the Israelites, became enslaved in Egypt. The Israelites were enslaved for over 500 years and their population grew to hundreds of thousands of people, outnumbering the Egyptians who owned them.
God famously delivers them from the control of the Pharaoh through Moses and the 12 plagues, ending with the Passover. The Pharaoh decides to let them go, and they all flee, led by Moses out of Egypt. But then Pharaoh decides he doesn’t want to let them go anymore and sends his army after them. His army is then destroyed by the Red Sea which through God’s power, Moses parted for the Israelites to pass through.
All of this happens in the first fifteen chapters of Exodus, the second book of the Bible. Let’s take a pause and define the word refugee, according to the United Nations High Commission on Refugees.
A refugee is someone who has been forced to flee his or her country because of persecution, war, or violence.
Sounds a lot like the Israelites, though Egypt wasn’t the country they belonged to (they had not yet claimed the land of Israel). The first scripture I quoted from the book of Leviticus, the third book of the Bible, is in reference to the story of how God delivered his people from Egypt. Another prominent example is from the Gospels.
Jesus was a refugee
In Chapter 2 in the Gospel according to Matthew, the magi come to visit the newly born Jesus. In verse 13, an angel appeared to Joseph (Jesus’ father, sort of) in a dream and told him to flee to Egypt because Herod was searching for Jesus to destroy him. King Herod wanted to kill Jesus because the Messiah was prophesied to become the ruler of Israel, meaning he would no longer rule Israel. Matthew 2:13-14 (NAB) reads,
When they had departed, behold, the angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, “Rise, take the child and his mother, flee to Egypt, and stay there until I tell you. Herod is going to search for the child to destroy him.” Joseph rose and took the child and his mother by night and departed for Egypt. ‘
King Herod ordered that all boys in Bethlehem (where Jesus was born) under age two must be killed. It was not until Herod died that the angel appeared to Joseph in Egypt telling him to bring his family back to Israel (v. 19-23).
Given this description of the story of Joseph, Mary and Jesus fleeing to Egypt, it is fair to say that the Holy Family were refugees at one point in time.
Refugees in 2018
Reviewing the story of God delivering the Israelites from Egypt paired with the knowledge that the Savior of the world was forced to flee his country, it is clear that refugees have been among God’s chosen people and those instrumental to His great salvation story.
In 2018, many refugees come from populations that don’t believe in Christianity, but each person is created in the image of God, loved by God, and therefore deserving of respect and compassion by all people.
I encourage Christians who may not support refugees in the political arena to rethink their views and see how stories of those who have fled their homes from violence and persecution are dear to God. As believers, let’s stand with refugees.
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