To Love a Refugee, part 2

Last week I let the Bible point out how God wants us to treat foreigners— refugees—living among us. We are not to mistreat or oppress them, we are to treat them as we treat one another, with the same laws. We are to provide food and clothing, and ensure they receive justice. However, we aren’t the only ones with responsibilities. God has expectations for the foreigners as well.

To live in Israel, foreigners had to give up their pagan gods and their previous culture and assimilate. Of course, Judea and Israel were theocracies, and the U.S. is not, but the basic idea remains—immigrants are expected to adopt the values of their new country.

But you must keep my decrees and my laws. The native-born and the foreigners residing among you must not do any of these detestable things [referring to idol worship],for all these things were done by the people who lived in the land before you, and the land became defiled. (Leviticus 18:26-27)

So we are to welcome refugees while requiring them to become upstanding residents and citizens. But what about those who aim to deceive us? How can we protect ourselves? How can we know when a seemingly innocent refugee is really a terrorist in disguise?

In Joshua 9 we read the story of the Gibeonites. If you don’t remember it, please take a moment and read it now. Why were the Israelites deceived? Was it because of the skill with which the Gibeonites disguised themselves, appearing to have traveled a long distance? Look at verse 14: “The Israelites sampled their provisions but did not inquire of the Lord.” And the result was that, against the will of God, they made a treaty with a nearby tribe.

We may lack the ability to discern the difference between a person fleeing the terrorists, and the terrorists themselves, but God knows the heart. Wouldn’t it be amazing if Homeland Security included prayer in their vetting process? We all know how unlikely that is, but that shouldn’t stop us from asking God on their behalf.

As we pray and trust God, He asks us to love our neighbor, no matter how far they have come to live beside us. Pray for discernment. Pray for protection. Pray that we won’t be governed by fear, which is the opposite of faith. Then pray for help in loving the strangers, because true love reaches out no matter the cost.

1 Kings 8 describes Solomon’s dedication of the temple. Among the celebrants that day were foreigners, who came because they heard of God’s great name and His mighty hand and His outstretched arm (v. 41). May we live in such a way that people around the world want to come here—not because they might have a nicer lifestyle, but because they want to meet the God who lives among us.

Jamie Wright, on her blog Jamie the Very Worst Missionary, sums it up perfectly:

It’s true, if we open our borders, doors, homes, and hearts to Syrian refugees (or homeless vets, or foster kids, or recovering addicts, or poor people of any kind), there is a chance that we will unwittingly show love to our enemies. We may even end up getting hurt. But if we choose to avoid our neighbors and ignore their dire circumstances, then maybe it doesn’t really matter if a handful of terrorists sneak in to the Land of the Free and the Home of the Brave behind a family of hungry refugees. When the Church is willing to let innocent people with genuine needs die in the street because we’re too scared to get involved, terror has already done its job—it has stolen our identity in Christ.

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