When Knox visited last week, I gave him a copy of Claire Huchet Bishop’s book, Twenty and Ten, because I thought he should be more aware of refugees and their problems. It’s written lower than his usual reading level, but it has a great message. He read over half of it while he was here and finished it soon after. I know he scored 100% on his AR test. (Accelerated Reader is a computer program of questions over books read.) We can discuss it the next time we’re together.
Years ago, while reading that book, I was confronted with an idea I’d never considered: What did Joseph, Mary, and their baby do for support when they were in Eqypt? A child in the book instantly declares: “Of course they don’t need help from the Egyptians! What do you think they are doing with all that gold and frankincense and myrrh? They can sell that to buy food. And what about Joseph’s carpentry skills? He can surely find a job.”
I’d never before given a thought to how Jesus’ family survived in Egypt. But the recent refugee crisis reminds me of their situation. Like them, many refugee families come here with skills, willing to use them to support their families. Unlike them, they often cannot bring with them extravagant items to sell, so they need our help.
These are hard issues for Christians throughout the world. Did Jesus as an adult ever deal with refugees or address their situations? Not that I have read. But he followed the old law, which said, “When a foreigner resides among you in your land, do not mistreat them. The foreigner residing among you must be treated as your native-born. Love them as yourself, for you were foreigners in Egypt. I am the Lord your God” (Leviticus 19:33-34.)
I am presently participating in the “I Was a Stranger” project. I have a bookmark that gives 40 scriptures that in some way relate to the topic of immigration and how we should treat immigrants. They are most revealing! The first 26 are from the Old Testament; the rest are from the New. God made very clear how his people were to treat aliens/strangers/immigrants/foreigners, depending on the translation. We are prompted by these scriptures to pray for immigrants, to see them as God does, and to pray for elected officials as well, that they make wise decisions about immigrants.
These readings include Romans 13:1-2:
Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. Consequently, whoever rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves.
Later in the same chapter, Paul says:
Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for whoever loves others has fulfilled the law. The commandments, “You shall not commit adultery,” “You shall not murder,” “You shall not steal,” “You shall not covet,” and whatever other command there may be, are summed up in this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Love does no harm to a neighbor. Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.
I don’t know how, as Christians, we can ignore people in crisis. Paul doesn’t say only to submit to authorities when what they command fits God’s laws. He just says to be subject to them. Many believers say we don’t have to submit to the government if they go against God’s law, but Paul doesn’t really cover that topic. We know he spoke out for Jesus and was jailed for it. We know that Jesus’ harshest words were to those in authority.
Above all, Jesus identified the second greatest command as “Love your neighbor as yourself” (Matthew 22:39.) Love God, love people. He doesn’t say “love your family,” or “love those who love you,” or “love those who can help you.” It’s just “love your neighbor as yourself.”
It’s very hard, sometimes, to know exactly what we can do as Christians, but Jesus’ conversation in Luke 10:36-37 is pretty clear:
“Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?”
The expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him.”
Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.”
May we also show mercy to everyone. May we see every individual and nationality and culture as our neighbors.
He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God. Micah 6:8