By Greg Spofford
Pastoral Minister, Little Falls
What does the Bible say about how to treat people who are refugees, immigrants, or from foreign lands? Already in the second book of the Hebrew Scriptures which we call the Old Testament, God’s message is made known. In clear language, the Bible says we must not oppress the resident alien among us, for we were once aliens ourselves in the land of Egypt. God’s instructions to Moses are to care for the refugee, immigrant and foreign stranger.
“God loves the stranger” is the message in Deuteronomy 10, verse 18, with Psalm 146 citing that God protects the stranger. If that isn’t enough proof that God commands the best for refugees, immigrants and strangers, the book of Kings exhorts us to “Do according to all the foreigner calls you to” (1 Kings 8:43) telling us to do this even if it is not easy or convenient.
If one is reluctant to pay attention to the Old Testament, Jesus does not let us off the hook in the New Testament, and ties our very salvation in what is called the “Last Judgment” story. “I was a stranger and you didn’t welcome me,” (Matt 25:43), and “Every time you didn’t help a stranger, you didn’t help me” (Matt 25:45). These are extremely strong words about and from Jesus.
The parable of the Good Samaritan in the gospel of Luke tells us that the priest and Levite, members of the stricken man’s own religious sect, ignored the hurt man. Were they fearful of being robbed themselves on this dangerous road to Jericho? Who stops to help the stranger? It is none other than the dreaded man from Samaria. The Samaritans were known as bitter opponents of the Jewish people. The good Samaritan assists the stranger to a place of healing, pays of his own money for the medical care, and checks back to see that the stranger is well. Is this what God wants of us toward the refugee, immigrant, and stranger? Yes.
This past week, on the eve of International Women’s Day, three wonderful young women spoke to a crowd of about 100 people in Little Falls, the county seat of our own Morrison County. The young women spoke eloquently and fondly of growing up in Atlanta, Ga., moving to Minnesota, and now enjoying immensely their work and schooling in St. Cloud. What makes their stories remarkable? They just happen to be Muslim refugees whose mother fled from Somalia to avoid being killed. They are “We” and we are blessed to have them here in our midst.
Jesus, Mary, and Joseph fled from Herod and were refugee immigrants in a new land. Would we welcome Jesus, Mary, and Joseph to Morrison County?