In my last blog I described refugees. In this blog I want to answer a question that many ask about refugees. "So, with all the need that we already have in this country, why should we serve people who are not our own? We don't have enough to go around for our own people the way it is."
I could probably try to answer that concern from a few different angles, but, as usual, it's best if I just leave my personal opinions out of the discussion and go to the Word of God.
That sounds simple, but there are so many places we could go in Scripture to answer the question about why we serve refugees that I could make it really confusing quite quickly and make this much too long to read. So I will try to keep this simple and then I encourage you to do further study on your own.
Some texts in the Old Testament speak of the value and dignity of all people because we are ALL made in the image and likeness of God (Genesis 1:26). That makes us all equal.
Some texts speak generically of the poor and how we are or are not to treat them. Proverbs 29:7 says that the righteous need to consider the cause of the poor. There are literally multitudes of texts that speak to this issue.
Then other texts speak more specifically about the foreigner or the stranger who is in the land. In Deuteronomy 10:18 and following we learn that God loves the foreigner in the land, giving them food and clothing. Therefore God's people should love the foreigners, because God does and because God's people were also foreigners in a strange land at one time.
The prophets spoke often and harshly about how God's people were to be punished severely for the way they neglected the poor (refugees fall into that category). God's attitude is wrapped up in Jeremiah 22: 16 when he states that King Josiah gave the poor a fair trial. "That is what it means to know the Lord." In reverse, if you don't treat the poor justly you do not know the Lord. Interesting how simple that is, isn't it?
Jesus carries that attitude over into the New Testament. In a much-quoted text from Matthew 25 Jesus says, "I tell you, whenever you refused to help one of these least important ones, you refused to help me. These (the ones who did not help), then, will be sent off to eternal punishment." Again, really simple, isn't it?
Refugees, at least when they are newly resettled, are poor, foreigners and strangers in our midst. Jesus does not ask, "Did you have any of "your own" who were needy at the time?" He only asks whether you helped the ones you saw in your midst who were in need. Refugees are in your midst, and they are in need.
There are some churches in the Greater Phoenix area that serve refugees, one of which is Cross-Connection International Fellowship. Unlike most others, this church has a website with a separate heading on the home page for "Refugee Ministry." On it they state the following:
"CCIF intentionally exerts time, resources, and energy to reach out to the refugee community here in the Phoenix area. We do so for two primary reasons:
1. His Word puts a great emphasis on His love for the poor and oppressed and He commands His people to love and serve them too. (Psalm 9:9 & 82:3,4 and many other verses.)
2. We take seriously His commission to make disciples of ALL NATIONS.
We wholeheartedly participate in supporting those who actually go to the far corners of the globe in obedience to His command. But we also believe that each and every Christian has also been called to make disciples of all ethnic groups as they go about their day to day lives. It's our firm conviction that because of His love for them, God has permitted many ethnic groups from around the world to come to our city to begin a new life. A large portion of these people are refugees who have suffered in their own countries and in refugee camps in other countries in ways that are beyond our ability to comprehend.
By demonstrating God's love in practical ways for this unique segment of our population, we not only assist them in beginning a new life here in America, we also provide an opportunity for them to understand and perhaps receive the ultimate 'new life' that is found only in coming to know God, their Creator, through His Son Jesus Christ."
I suggest you go to one more location on that website. Listen to the message by Pastor Jeff Jackson on "Why We Serve Refugees." It serves as a good resource that provides an answer to our question.
There is one final reason why Abounding Service serves refugees. Very simply, it is our calling. To focus on something else would be to reject God's will for our ministry. I learned long ago that it is far better to join God in the way He is leading than it is to go a different direction. It's been a blessed journey. Would you consider how He is calling you?