UM Insight Screencap/Church & Society
German United Methodists have welcomed refugees to their country.
I am disappointed again in a “famous Christian.” The media runs to certain ones all the time for quotes about the Christian perspective on issues. Franklin Graham, son of famous evangelist Billy Graham, is one of those people. He once again has opened his mouth and inserted a shoebox.
Franklin Graham had an interview with the Huffington Post in which they asked him about “the White House’s plans to prevent refugees fleeing war-torn Syria from entering the United States.” Graham replied that it is simply “not a Bible issue.”
I have disagreed with many things Franklin Graham has said over the years but I think he must be reading a different Bible. There really isn’t an exact word for refugee found in the Bible so this may be what he is thinking of. However, the words in Hebrew and Greek that refer to people like refugees are called immigrants or sojourners or foreigners in the Bible. They are foreigners coming to a new land. The Bible doesn’t get specific about on the reason for their travels or why they are searching to live elsewhere.
With that said, there are a TON of scriptures that talk about foreigners, immigrants or sojourners. Over and over again, in the law, God reminds Israel that they were once immigrants/foreigners in Egypt and so that need to treat the immigrants or foreigners in their land well. The Hebrew word used to describe what we call immigrant or foreigner today is “ger” and it is used 92 times in the Hebrew Bible or Old Testament.
For more see the following Scriptures found in the Hebrew Bible: Exodus 23:9; Leviticus 19:33-34; Deuteronomy 10:19; Deuteronomy 24:19-21; Deuteronomy 26:12; 1 Kings 8:41-44; Job 31:32; Psalm 146:9; Jeremiah 7:5-7; Jeremiah 22:3; Ezekiel 22:4, 7; Zechariah 7:10; Malachi 3:5.
What about the New Testament? Does Jesus or Paul say anything about how we should treat the strangers among us? Yes. Franklin Graham is very aware of Jesus’ parable of the Good Samaritan because that is where he took the name for his ministry, “Samaritan’s Purse.” Here is their purpose, as stated on their website, “Samaritan’s Purse is a nondenominational Christian organization providing spiritual and physical aid with excellence to victims of war, natural disasters, disease, famine, poverty and persecution in over 100 countries.”
Samaritan’s Purse is living out the parable it is based on, by helping those around the world who are in desperate need. That is wonderful…but why is it unbiblical for these people in need to be helped by letting them come to our own nation?
This seems to smack against Jesus’ parable of the Sheep and Goats in Matthew 25:31-46. In that parable, Jesus says, “I was a stranger and you welcomed me.” (v.35, CEB) The word “stranger” is the Greek word “xenos” which can be translated as “a foreigner, a stranger, alien, one who receives and entertains another hospitably.” It is used 14 times in the New Testament.
There are more New Testament scriptures that talk about the stranger or immigrant or foreigner: Hebrews 13:2; 1 Peter 2:11, 1 Corinthians 12:12-14; Galatians 5:14 and of course the Parable of the Good Samaritan Luke 10:29-37.
Even if we take out all the other references to the stranger or immigrant or foreigner we still have the mandate of Jesus’ Commandments. “You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your being, and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: You must love your neighbor as you love yourself.” (Matthew 22:36-39 CEB)
If our neighbor’s house burned down how many of us, good Christians, would welcome them into our homes as they get back on their feet. How many of us reach out to our neighbors when there is a death in the family, divorce, or sickness? How many of us attempt to do all we can to live into the second part of Jesus’ command?
Then you may ask, “who is our neighbor?” To find that answer you will have to read the parable of the Good Samaritan…Luke 10:29-27. I’ll give you a slight spoiler…it isn’t the religious leaders or the ones set apart by birth to do great things for God…right Franklin? There seems to be ample biblical examples, so I do believe this is a biblical issue.
The truth is it is our Christian imperative and Biblical mandate to be open and welcome in those who are in need no matter if they are from here or come here. This is the way we show the love of God.
The Rev. Jim Parsons serves as pastor of Indian Trail United Methodist Church in Indian Trail, N.C. This post is republished with the author's permission from his blog, Adventures in Revland.