God tells us to help refugees

Published 10:02 pm Friday, June 8, 2018

By Thurman Hayes

It was my privilege recently to travel to a country in Asia to do work among refugees. These precious people have fled their home country, due to persecution. Now they are trapped in a megacity in Asia, living in fear of being picked up by immigration police, separated from their families and imprisoned indefinitely in a detention center. Along with one of my daughters, I visited people in this detention center. It is heartbreaking. We also visited refugees where they live, sharing food, sharing tea, sharing conversation and sharing the hope of Christ.

Upon my return to the States, it was troubling to see the stories in the news about children being separated from their parents at our own borders. Those of us who call ourselves Christians and who claim to be “pro-family” should be the first to speak against this, and I will not hold back.

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Nor will I hold back from proclaiming what the Bible says about how we as God’s people are to treat refugees.

The Old Testament contains scores of passages that directly address the issue of refugees. Here are just a couple:

“When a stranger sojourns with you in your land, you shall not do him wrong. You shall treat the stranger who sojourns with you as the native among you, and you shall love him as yourself, for you were once strangers in the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God.” (Leviticus 19:33-34).

Could this be any clearer? Could it be any stronger? God is perfectly clear and powerfully strong on this issue.

In Deuteronomy 10:18-19, the Bible says of our God, “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.”

Again, is God ambiguous about this issue? Is he unclear? Not at all. He commands his people to love refugees, for they are among the world’s most vulnerable people, and God calls his people to have compassion for the weak and vulnerable among us.

Have you ever stopped to think how you would like to be treated if you were forced to flee your country? Jesus knew that feeling. When he was a baby, his parents were forced to flee as refugees to Egypt. That’s right: Jesus was a refugee.

Jesus once said that at the judgment, many will ask him, “And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you? And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me” (Matthew 25:38-40).

Christian friends, if we don’t care about the “stranger,” the refugee, the poor, and the vulnerable among us, how “pro-life” are we, really? Being pro-life is not just about opposing abortion. Yes, we should seek to protect babies in the womb, but we should also display compassion for vulnerable people outside the womb. If we don’t care about refugees, the poor and the vulnerable among us, we should stop calling ourselves “pro-life.”

Let’s be consistently pro-life the way our God is consistently pro-life, from womb to tomb.

Dr. Thurman R. Hayes Jr. is senior pastor of First Baptist Church of Suffolk. Follow him on Twitter at @ThurmanHayesJr.