What Does the Bible Say About Refugees?

There’s a lot of talk about refugees these days. Immigration policy and how refugees should be treated are at the center of a highly divisive discourse in many countries, including our own. Immigration reform is a complex legislative issue, and one about which many Christians on both sides of the political spectrum have very strong feelings. At the same time I find that many Christ-followers are remarkably ignorant as to what the Bible has to say about refugees. So, here’s a sampling:

Love Refugees as Yourself

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. (Leviticus 19:33-34)

Leave Food for the Poor and the Foreigner

When you reap the harvest of your land, do not reap to the very edges of your field or gather the gleanings of your harvest. Do not go over your vineyard a second time or pick up the grapes that have fallen. Leave them for the poor and the foreigner. (Leviticus 19:9-10)

God Loves the Foreigner Residing Among You

He defends the cause of the fatherless and the widow, and loves the foreigner residing among you, giving them food and clothing. And you are to love those who are foreigners, for you yourselves were foreigners in Egypt. (Deuteronomy 10:18-19)

Do Not Oppress a Foreigner

Do not oppress a foreigner; you yourselves know how it feels to be foreigners, because you were foreigners in Egypt. (Exodus 23:9)

Do Not Deprive Foreigners Among You of Justice

“So I will come to put you on trial. I will be quick to testify against sorcerers, adulterers and perjurers, against those who defraud laborers of their wages, who oppress the widows and the fatherless, and deprive the foreigners among you of justice, but do not fear me,” says the Lord Almighty. (Malachi 3:5)

We Meet Jesus in the Face of our Needy Neighbor

For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’ (Matthew 25:25-36)

What these passages, and many others like them, mean for the current debate on immigration reform isn’t clear to me. I’m often slow to want to directly apply scripture to 21st Century governmental policy. What is abundantly clear to me, however, is how Christ-followers are to think about and act toward the refugees in our midst. We can debate endlessly about what we think our government should do, but I’m equally interested in asking, “What am I doing about the needs of the refugees in my neighborhood?”

What are you doing?

Jeff Marian is lead pastor at Prince of Peace Lutheran Church in Burnsville, MN

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  • JOSUE J CASTILLO

    food for deep thought…

  • Steve Anderson

    We should stop spending money on drones to kill people, and start spending money on food and housing to care for people. The atomic bomb didn’t win WW 2;the Marshall Plan did.