The topic of refugeeism seems to be one of the most current controversial and therefore discussed topics in today’s times. The temperature of the conversation started long before President Trump, becoming a more popular American table topic back in 2014 when Christian persecution captivated the nation, specifically the church. Now, on the back end of a hurried executive order to ban immigration from specific countries, the topic has once again found its fervor in the mouths and hearts of Americans. In the conversations I’ve had with friends and strangers regarding immigration, there seems to be three distinct categories of mindsets regarding the issue: Some are completely against foreign immigration from countries that are perceived as threats, endorsing the infamous wall our President promised to build during his campaign; others are baffled and shocked at what they call the heartlessness of those who would immediately shut down any talks or momentum towards a more inclusive immigration reform; and then there are some who are simply in the middle, who believe in the reality of the threats to national security, but can’t seem to reconcile completely the images of drowned babies and war-torn children and families.
I’m not writing this to tell you what specifically to do. Personally I find myself more in the middle. I understand the need to protect ourselves from threats, as I have my mother, father and brothers here. But I also understand something else: if I am a Christian, I am a refugee.
A refugee isn’t just anyone who visits another country or a broad label given to all foreigners. There are specific circumstances that would qualify someone as a refugee, mainly the fact that their home country or land is no longer safe or habitable for them or their family. A refugee, then, is someone who needs to be rescued. Redeemed, even. In Psalms 107, we see the beautiful depictions of what being redeemed looks like. Each section contains an overwhelming problem, a desperate cry to the Lord, His gracious response and rescue, and the gratitude that flows from that.
“Some wandered in desert wastes, finding no way to a city to dwell in; hungry and thirsty, their soul fainted within them. Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble, and he delivered them from their distress. He led them by a straight way till they reached a city to dwell in. Let them thank the Lord for his steadfast love, for his wondrous works to the children of man! For he satisfies the longing soul, and the hungry soul he fills with good things.” (Psalms 107:4-9 ESV)
This section and the verses that follow are referring to the rescue and redemption only the Savior of the world could bring, namely salvation through the person and work of Jesus Christ. As a Christian, I know my story well. Caught and trapped in the domain of darkness and enslaving sin and death, it was only the graciousness of the Lord to allow me into His family and call me his own. I have no personal merit or privilege that would require Him to act on my behalf in this way. It is only out of the overflow of His Love inside the Trinity that spills over to me that He acted for me and rescued me. All believers are those who once wandered lost in foreign lands, searching for and in need of food and water. Some are there because of their own sin; others are there because of the brokenness of this world. But all find their hope in Jesus. God rescues us, the foreigner. And through Jesus Christ, we are no longer foreigners but citizens of a new kingdom and children of a new family.
The topic of refugeeism is not easy. The policies and reforms needed require discernment and wisdom. But they will also require great compassion. It is my belief that the heart of the believer should be for the rescuing of the refugee. That doesn’t negate hard conversations surrounding safety or security, but it does mean that compassion and empathy should also be seated at the table of these conversations. For every true believer knows what it means to be in need of rescue.