She is a daughter of a Lutheran pastor whose style of leadership has led some to call her “The Indispensable European.” In recent months, her open-door migrant policy renewed hope and faith in the goodness of humanity in certain parts of the world. Unfortunately, this same policy has caused so much backlash in her country and Europe that many wonder if it might bring an end to her decade-long leadership of Germany.
Angela Merkel, chancellor of Germany, surprised many when in September she announced that “Germany’s basic right to asylum has no upper limits.” As a result of this posture, hundreds and thousands of Syrian refugees stranded in Hungary made their way to Germany. But pressures from her party, the Christian Democratic Union, and others have now forced her to consider quotas for migrants seeking to enter the country.
Whether Merkel sought to score some political points or simply allowed her Christian upbringing to inform her views on the current refugee crisis, we don’t know. What we need to ponder is the Biblical view toward refugees.
From Adam and Eve leaving Eden down to Christ fleeing Herod to Egypt, Scripture has ample stories of refugees and migrants—some forced to relocate, others seeking the betterment of their lives. The stories of the patriarchs and their migrations to Egypt are all too familiar. The 430 years of slavery that ensued formed another painful memory for everyone who endured the ordeal.
When life’s circumstances befall, they may force anyone to leave home in search of a better life. In good times, very few people wish to uproot and leave their comforts, families, and countries.
Because the children of Israel were foreigners in Egypt, God sought to enshrine in their minds to never mistreat migrants (Exodus 22:21; 23:29). The Bible spends significant time on this subject. Here are few texts on the topic from the Old Testament:
- “Do not oppress a foreigner; you yourselves know how it feels to be foreigners, because you were foreigners in Egypt.” Exodus 23:9*
- “When a foreigner resides among you in your land, do not mistreat them.” Leviticus 19:33
- “The foreigner residing among you must be treated as your native-born. Love them as yourself, for you were foreigners in Egypt. I am the LORD your God.” Leviticus 19:34
- “If any of your fellow Israelites become poor and are unable to support themselves among you, help them as you would a foreigner and stranger, so they can continue to live among you.” Leviticus 25:35
- “And I charged your judges at that time, ‘Hear the disputes between your people and judge fairly, whether the case is between two Israelites or between an Israelite and a foreigner residing among you.’” Deuteronomy 1:16
- “And you are to love those who are foreigners, for you yourselves were foreigners in Egypt.” Deuteronomy 10:19
- “Do not despise an Egyptian, because you resided as foreigners in their country.” Deuteronomy 23:7
- “Let them live among you wherever they like and in whatever town they choose. Do not oppress them.” Deuteronomy 23:16
- “Cursed is anyone who withholds justice from the foreigner, the fatherless or the widow.” Deuteronomy 27:19
- “The LORD watches over the foreigner and sustains the fatherless and the widow, but he frustrates the ways of the wicked.” Psalm 146:9
- “This is what the LORD says: Do what is just and right. Rescue from the hand of the oppressor the one who has been robbed. Do no wrong or violence to the foreigner, the fatherless or the widow, and do not shed innocent blood in this place.” Jeremiah 22:3
- “In you they have treated father and mother with contempt; in you they have oppressed the foreigner and mistreated the fatherless and the widow.” Ezekiel 22:7
- “Do not oppress the widow or the fatherless, the foreigner or the poor. Do not plot evil against each other.” Zechariah 7:10
In the New Testament, the story of the Good Samaritan encapsulates the Biblical view toward people of a different ethnic group as well as victims of violence and misfortune. The scornful, derisive views of the Jews toward the Samaritans and Gentiles are well known in Scripture. In contrast, the Good Samaritan did not question first whether the person wounded on the side of the road was a Jew or Gentile. All he saw was a human being in need of help.
The actuating principle in every Christian’s heart is to recognize that we are all refugees. The Great Controversy, the war between Christ and Satan, has displaced and separated all humanity from our home and heavenly Father. The results of sin are obvious for all to see—wars, famine, hunger, disease, human trafficking, etc. Therefore, like Abraham in “a foreign country” (Heb. 11:9), and like all the other champions of faith in the hall of faith in Hebrews 11, we consider ourselves as “foreigners and strangers on earth” (Heb. 11:13).
Seeing then that this world is not our home, what attitude should we have toward those who have been affected by the problem of sin? Should we not extend a helping hand to them (Luke 10:25-37)? What if they are our enemies? Should we not love our enemies (Matt. 5:44)? What if they are of different skin color? Aren’t we all created in the image of God (Gen. 1:27)?
Heaven is our home, and until Christ comes back to take His children home, we are all refugees.
*All Bible texts are from the NIV.
Photo: Syrian refugees at a railway station in Budapest, Hungary, in September 2105. By Mstyslav Chernov (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)], via Wikimedia Commons