The Father's Heart for the Refugee
Updated: Jul 15, 2021
Sunday the 20th of last month was recognised as "Fathers Day" over much of the world. This year, however, it coincided with "International Refugee Sunday". I don't personally believe this was in any way a mere coincidence.
God the Father's heart for what the Bible refers to as the 'foreigner' or 'alien' or 'stranger' is clear - if we will look with eyes to see.
A recent report by the UNHCR states there are currently 82.4 million forcibly displaced persons in the world. This is a significant jump even from 2019, when the figure was 79.5 million, and 2012 when it was half the current figure, at 41 million people.
The story of the Bible throughout, and the story of the Jewish people, carries the theme of being refugees, and being driven out or seeking asylum. We think of Abraham and Lot who traveled seeking another country. We think of Jacob's family as economic refugees in Egypt during famine. Moses, himself, was born a refugee into a refugee nation. There was Rahab and her family seeking sanctuary in Israel, and Ruth, the foreigner, gleaning at the edges of the fields. David, who was anointed as king, spent a period of asylum-seeking among a neighbouring nation. Elijah took refuge outside of his own country. Joseph, Mary, and the baby Jesus, sought asylum in another country to their own. And sadly, the Jewish people throughout history have often been refugees and asylum seekers.
Jesus, himself, told a story about a foreigner who showed greater compassion than the national religious leaders, and who, He said, was actually the real neighbour.
Old Testament Israeli society was grounded in compassion for the foreigner who lived among them. Deuteronomy mentions this often. A couple of examples are:
Deuteronomy 10:18 -19
18 "He (God) ensures that orphans and widows receive justice. He shows love to the foreigners living among you and gives them food and clothing.
19 So you, too, must show love to foreigners, for you yourselves were once foreigners in the land of Egypt."
Deuteronomy 24:14 -21
14 “Never take advantage of poor and destitute laborers, whether they are fellow Israelites or foreigners living in your towns...
17 “True justice must be given to foreigners living among you and to orphans, and you must never accept a widow’s garment as security for her debt.
19 “When you are harvesting your crops and forget to bring in a bundle of grain from your field, don’t go back to get it. Leave it for the foreigners, orphans, and widows. Then the Lord your God will bless you in all you do.
20 When you beat the olives from your olive trees, don’t go over the boughs twice. Leave the remaining olives for the foreigners, orphans, and widows.
21 When you gather the grapes in your vineyard, don’t glean the vines after they are picked. Leave the remaining grapes for the foreigners, orphans, and widows."
And in chapter 27 verse 19, we are told, "Cursed is anyone who denies justice to foreigners, orphans, or widows". These are very strong words from God.
In Malachi 3 verse 5, God males this statement: a statement we rarely consider the ramifications of, “At that time I will put you on trial. I am eager to witness against all sorcerers and adulterers and liars. I will speak against those who cheat employees of their wages, who oppress widows and orphans, or who deprive the foreigners living among you of justice, for these people do not fear me,” says the LORD of Heaven’s Armies. “I am the LORD, and I do not change."" Often, Christians can be heard speaking against some of the issues mentioned at the beginning of this verse, but rarely placing the latter sins on the same level in their eyes. Unfair payment of employees, and rejection of those who live among us from other nations, are rarely perceived to be as 'serious sins' as sorcery or adultery. Yet God makes no distinction in severity. He doesn't grade sin.
As the Father, Who Jesus came to illuminate, He both sees the plight of every human being, and He has arms which welcome all who come to Him. The coinciding of Fathers Day and Refugee Sunday is important to note. There is room in the Father's heart for all who come to Him for help. We have to ask ourselves the hard question, "Are we reflecting this Heavenly - this other-world Father? Or are we content to hide inside our comfort bubbles? The change has to begin internally. And it has to begin in prayer. We have to ask God for heart change in any area where we are out of alignment with Him. Then He will direct us as to how He wants each of us to respond in these days to the plight of the displaced on our planet.
I share a prayer I came across from the Methodist Africana Worship Book.
A Prayer Based on Micah 6:8
Give us, o Lord, an eye for injustice. For it is only when are able to recognize injustice and feel its awful sting that we will be moved to make things right. Give us, o Lord, a tender heart. Sometimes we are too hard-hearted to recognize when we have been uncaring, unfeeling, or unkind. Grant us, o Lord the ability to view life from the dust. All our lives we have been taught to make others proud, to be proud of ourselves, to hold our heads high -- all the while missing the virtues of being poor in spirit. Teach us dear Lord, to do justice, love kindness, and to walk humbly with you. Amen. From the Africana Worship Book for Year A. Copyright Discipleship Resources, United Methodist Church.
May God bless us as we consider these things.