What the bible says about refugees, sojourners and strangers
The plight of displaced people isn’t the first thing that usually comes to mind as we juggle priorities in the busy world we live in. Family complexities, political concerns, financial pressures and many other issues distract us from crises that are out of sight, and therefore out of mind. Yet, each day is a harsh reality for whole communities displaced from their homes by extreme violence, political unrest, or natural disasters. They are the often-forgotten millions.
Children at the refugee settlement in Cox's Bazar, Bangladesh. Credit:Tearfund.
Let's take a look at three things the Bible says about displaced people.
1. Stories of sojourners
The Bible recounts real-life stories like Joseph, sold by his brothers and relocated to Egypt (Genesis 37-39); or Ruth, left destitute after her husband’s death and seeking a new life in a foreign land (Ruth 1). These very human stories of forced migration not only put us in their shoes but also show us that God makes a point of expressing his care for the sojourner.
2. Caring for the displaced
God, however, doesn’t just want us to know that He cares for the sojourner but that His plan is for us is to partner with Him and demonstrate that care ourselves. The Law not only declares that Israel should mirror God’s love for the stranger but reminds them that they too “were strangers in the land of Egypt” (Deuteronomy 10:19). Israel themselves are God’s own “strangers and sojourners” (Leviticus 25:23). This identification can apply to the Church as well. In the New Testament, Christians are at times referred to as “foreigners and exiles” (1 Peter 2:11) and “scattered among the nations.” (James 1:1).
3. Jesus as a sojourner
The Bible also describes the Lord Jesus as a kind of sojourner as well. Jesus was displaced after he was born, as his parents fled to Egypt to avoid the horrific threats by Herod (Matthew 2:13). As an adult back in his native land, Jesus was rejected by his own people (John 1:11) and “had no place to lay his head.” (Matthew 8:20) In Matthew 25, Jesus identifies directly with the displaced and vulnerable. Jesus was a refugee.
Perhaps most challenging of all, Jesus teaches us that when kindness and care is extended to people in distress, He considers it an act of service for Him personally.
The Bible, therefore, has a very consistent and strong message concerning displaced persons. We are to empathise with the reality of their circumstances and loss, and pay attention to God’s loving command to care for them. Like Jesus, we are challenged to identify as much as we can as sojourners ourselves as we practically seek their good.
Women involved in a trauma counselling programme facilitated by Tearfund's partner Tutapona in Iraq. Credit:Tutapona.
We can achieve this by:
+ Being aware and informed of humanitarian crises that impact displaced people or sojourners.
+ Using news and information as fuel for prayer and intercession.
+ Partnering with those who are physically aiding the sojourner by giving to appeals like this one.
In so doing, we truly are loving the Lord, and our loving neighbour as ourselves.
+ For international humanitarian support to begin to scale up again
+ For the complex situations that have led people to flee from their homes to begin to be resolved
+ For each of Tearfund’s partners working with the displaced – that they would be Jesus hands and feet in these communities and shine His light
+ That through Tearfund’s partners, displaced people will know that they’re not forgotten and are loved by God
+ That Jesus would bring hope for the future and be recognised in our service
Help provide hope and vital support to displaced people