The refugee crisis in our world today, has sparked a lot of talk concerning the Christian's responsibility toward foreigners. Because it seems to be a touchy subject for some, I would like to come at it from a non-biased point of view. Pointedly, I want to highlight a few important passages that I believe offer an honest understanding of the topic.
People, in general, do not ever like to be wrong. Some will go as far as only providing one side of a story to prove their point, even if they know the other side to be true as well. This can be seen in politics and main stream journalism all the time. The truth is censured based upon what side you want to support. Although this is unbalanced, and unfair, it seems to be easier than trying to sort through both sides and come up with a rationale that satisfies all. That said, there are many factors that motivate a person to stand for this or that, or to side with this person or another. Balance and truth is what I desire to present today, showing that in order for truth to be truth we must avoid half truths.
What does the Bible say that can be applied to the believer when it comes to international refugees and our responsibility?
1) Concerning hospitality: "Be hospitable to one another without grumbling" (1Pet. 4:9). (see also Rom. 12:13; 1 Tim. 3:2; Titus 1:8) I have chosen this verse because it seems to be one of the obvious choice passages used to defend allowing a stranger into our home or even simply serving him/her. It strikes at the heart of service, and no true Christian can deny that we are called to serve one another in love (Gal. 5:13). This includes refugees.
2) Concerning Christian love: "If you really fulfill the royal law according to the Scripture, 'YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF,' you do well" (James 2:8). This will be the most quoted verse when it comes to service toward refugees. It is clear and concise. It is mentioned twice in the Old Testament, Lev. 19:18; Zech. 8:17. It is mentioned eight times in the New Testament, Matt. 4:43-44, 19:19, 22:39, 12:31; Luke 10:27; Rom. 13:9; Gal. 5:14; and James 2:8. The question most associated with this passage came from the lips of a religious lawyer in Luke 10. In verse 27 Jesus quoted from the old law, something a religious lawyer would be well aware of, considering interpreting the law was his responsibility. "You shall love your neighbor as yourself" (Luke 10:27). The lawyer then replied, "Who is my neighbor?" Jesus' reply was with the Parable of the Good Samaritan, Luke 10:30-37.
30 Then Jesus answered and said: “A certain man went down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell among thieves, who stripped him of his clothing, wounded him, and departed, leaving him half dead. 31 Now by chance a certain priest came down that road. And when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. 32 Likewise a Levite, when he arrived at the place, came and looked, and passed by on the other side. 33 But a certain Samaritan, as he journeyed, came where he was. And when he saw him, he had compassion. 34 So he went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine; and he set him on his own animal, brought him to an inn, and took care of him. 35 On the next day, when he departed, he took out two denarii, gave them to the innkeeper, and said to him, ‘Take care of him; and whatever more you spend, when I come again, I will repay you.’ 36 So which of these three do you think was neighbor to him who fell among the thieves?”
37 And he said, “He who showed mercy on him.”
Then Jesus said to him, “Go and do likewise.”1
One of the many points of the parable is that my neighbor is anyone who is in need. In this case, a Samaritan (foreigner), one despised by the Jews, was the one who helped out the unnamed man. Something, most likely, the lawyer in question was lacking. Therefore, we are called to love all people not just those of our own nationality.
3) Concerning safety: "But know this, that if the master of the house had known what hour the thief would come, he would have watched and not allowed his house to be broken into" (Luke 12:39). In this command of Jesus, concerning the spiritual state of believers, and in reference to the return of the Lord, we are told to always be aware and alert to the Lord's coming, which could happen at any time. Those who are not watchful are in a dilapidated spiritual state and are like the unwise master of the house who allowed the thief to break in and wreak havoc.
The argument could be made that the Lord recognizes that to live wisely means to live in such a way that we are hospitable to all people, that we love all people, but that we also be proper stewards of what we own, which includes security and safeguards. Not allowing our homes to be broken into is not just so that our belongings will not be stolen, but more certainly, that our loved ones are not harmed in the process.
So then, biblically speaking, I think a case can be made for putting proper (as opposed to improper or unreasonable) safeguards in place to protect our country from external danger. Does this mean we live scared? No. not at all. Does this mean we snub those that are already here? No, on the contrary, we love and serve as Jesus did. It also does not mean we hold up everyone who wants to enter the US for the sake of a few. However, it does mean that it is wise to properly vett those who are coming over illegally in order to make sure we are not allowing danger to sit on our couch. There is nothing wrong or unwise about that. We can love, serve with hospitality, and still safeguard our homes or country with out being labeled a hater.
1The New King James Version (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1982), Lk 10:30–37.