There seems to be some confusion on what the Bible says regarding how we should think about refugees. Certainly, there is complexity in the issue, but sometimes, it helps to begin with the heart.
I am not a politician, or a political scientist, or a lawyer, or a policy maker. I am a pastor. As a result, I do not speak first as an American, but as a Christian. And as a pastor, my primary responsibility is to direct the minds, hearts, and will of people towards the Lordship of Jesus Christ. Others can determine whether our treatment of refugees is “American” or not. I will hopefully shed light on what a Christian attitude ought to be.
It is helpful to begin by saying what one of my colleagues, professor of Political Science, Dr. Amy Black said to me over a meal we shared. She helpfully stated that “immigration and refugee policy is complex, and lawmakers necessarily need to balance concern for the vulnerable outside our borders with the need to care for the safety and security of those within. But as policymakers weigh these complex decisions, Christians can provide an important voice encouraging elected officials to find ways to safely welcome refugees.”
I want to be clear that I am not advocating for open and unprotected borders, but a more thoughtfully robust advocacy for those who are marginalized under dire circumstances. We have vetting processes that take up to or more than 2 years for refugees to enter the country. I am advocating for Christians to consider their role to speak into the political system as citizens with a voice.
As a Christian, I believe the Bible is God’s Word. As such, you do not cut and paste where you please. You consider all that it commands. Further, you submit to its full counsel [insert objection from ‘genius’ who argues about Levitical laws like abstaining from clothing made of mixed fibers that were fulfilled by Christ (Romans 10:4)].
With this in mind, I want to share 7 Bible Verses that might help shape our thinking on the matter through the Scriptures in light of this contentious issue.
1. All people are made in God's image (Genesis 1:27).
Humanity is the culmination of God’s creation design. Therefore, every single human being - including people from China, to the Middle East, to Mexico, and back, is made in the imago dei. This means the Syrian Refugees along with people from Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan and Yemen are made in the image of God as well. No way around it.
2. Christ came to seek and save the lost (Matthew 18:11).
As a Christian, this includes you. To forget this is to forget a fundamental reality of the Gospel which says, all have fallen short of God’s glory, but anyone who might believe in Jesus would be granted eternal life. If we close our borders (even temporarily) to people from these nations, these nations may close their borders off to us preventing American Christians from fulfilling the Great Commission to “Go and make disciples of all nations.”
3. We are bought with a price and we are not our own (1 Corinthians 6:20).
Pretty self explanatory, but just in case you missed it, you belong entirely to God - mind, body, soul, and will. As a result, we are to do what God calls us to do.
4. We are to treat the “sojourners” among us as our native born (Leviticus 19:34).
Yes, you heard it correctly. We are to treat the sojourners as our native born. This has huge implications.
The word “sojourner” in Hebrew can also be translated as “stranger, alien, and foreigner.” Basically, it includes everyone you don’t consider within the category of “us” and would definitely include refugees.
There are certainly political differences between a theocratic nation and a democratic nation, but the heart of this passage calls for a radical compassion to the most vulnerable.
5. We are to love others as we love ourselves (Mark 12:31).
Everyone loves this verse until they realize it includes their enemies, their rivals at work, irritating neighbors, people with differing political ideologies, and yes, refugees.
6. More specifically, we are to love “sojourners” (Deuteronomy 10:19).
There’s that word again. Not only are we supposed to treat the foreigners among us as our native born (see #4), but we are to love them. Love comes with sacrifice. Like our verse in Leviticus, there are certainly political differences between then and now, but the same compassion for the vulnerable is communicated.
7. Christ will judge us according to how we treat "the least of these" (Matthew 25:40).
Take some time to read and meditate on Matthew 25:31-46. It’s a pretty weighty passage for those who are comfortable with the direction our policies towards refugees are going. As we put a blanket halt on all people from these countries, it is sobering to note how fellow Christians are also prevented from finding sanctuary. Few words are more sobering.
Matthew 25:31 “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne. 32 Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. 33 And he will place the sheep on his right, but the goats on the left. 34 Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. 35 For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, 36 I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ 37 Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? 38 And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? 39 And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ 40 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.’
41 “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. 42 For I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, 43 I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not clothe me, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.’ 44 Then they also will answer, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to you?’ 45 Then he will answer them, saying, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.’ 46 And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”