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Refugee crisis5 min read

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What does the Bible say about refugees?

Megan Gingerich
May 04, 2022

The Bible doesn’t contain the word “refugee,” but God has a lot to say about how we should treat foreigners, especially those in need. And the Bible is filled with stories of people who had to flee their homes to stay safe, whether from war or religious persecution.

Our world is facing a massive refugee crisis today. The exact number is hard to nail down, but the U.N. estimated that 82.4 million people were refugees at the end of 2020. That number has skyrocketed even more because of crises like the Taliban’s takeover of Afghanistan in 2021 and the war in Ukraine that started in February 2022.

Refugees make a significant portion of the global population, and each number represents a real person that was forced to leave their home behind.

The magnitude of this crisis is impossible to ignore. So as believers, the first thing we should do is turn to Scripture.

1. Deuteronomy 10:18

“He defends the cause of the fatherless and the widow, and loves the foreigner residing among you, giving them food and clothing.”

In the Bible, foreigners are frequently mentioned alongside marginalized groups such as orphans and widows, implying that these foreigners aren’t simply on vacation in another country. In stark contrast, they’re strangers trying to make ends meet in a land they don’t belong in.

Deuteronomy 10:18 tells us that God loves the foreigner and supplies them with food and clothing. As we strive to love others as God loves us, it’s important we do the same. We shouldn’t ignore foreigners — or refugees — simply because we don’t know them. Instead, we should help them and do what we can to make their transition less painful.

2. Hebrews 13:2

“Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it.”

For most of us, being hospitable is something we do when a guest comes over. But we need to think bigger. Not everyone can host a refugee or a stranger in need in their home, but that doesn’t mean we can’t show hospitality. Showing hospitality to a refugee might simply mean being generous with your time, money, and resources to make someone feel at home in a strange place.

Taking it a step further, we learn from Hebrews 13:2 that we should treat every stranger as if they were an angel. If an angel came to you asking for help, would you turn them away? Of course not. So why would we turn away fellow human beings created in the image of God?

3. Leviticus 19:34

“The foreigner residing among you must be treated as native-born. Love them as yourself, for you were foreigners in Egypt. I am the Lord your God.”

Humans tend to divide people into groups of “us vs. them,” prioritizing the people we identify with over others who are different. It happens with refugees, too. When people become displaced, they often go to other countries or communities that must help them assimilate. Refugees need permanent housing, food, clothing, and jobs to provide for their families long-term.

Showing hospitality can be difficult in these situations because of the human desire to put ourselves and our needs first. But the Lord tells us in Leviticus 19:34 that there shouldn’t be a difference between the foreigner and the native-born. As believers, we can’t adopt the “us vs. them” mentality. Instead, the Lord tells us to love refugees as ourselves.

4. Matthew 2:13

“When they had gone, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream. “Get up,” he said, “take the child and his mother and escape to Egypt. Stay there until I tell you, for Herod is going to search for the child to kill him.”

Last but not least, we can’t forget that Jesus himself was a child refugee. When he was still a baby, Mary and Joseph were forced to flee to Egypt with Jesus to keep him safe from King Herod the Great.

Very little is known about the young family’s time in Egypt or how long they were there, but it couldn’t have been an easy transition. Mary and Joseph took Jesus to Egypt likely not knowing where they were going to stay or how they would survive. They had no choice but to trust that God would keep them safe.

Jesus said in Matthew 25:40 that whatever we do for people in need, we do for Him. We weren’t there to offer shelter or food when Jesus was a refugee in Egypt, but we can provide essential aid to the refugees living in our world today.

Click the button below to learn more about how you can be the hands and feet of Jesus for a refugee in Ukraine, Afghanistan, or another country in crisis.

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