The Refugee crisis is not going away. Many have warned us that this would be the case. Today Northern Ireland welcomed 14 more families including 20 children BUT earlier in the week the UK Parliament voted against welcoming 3000 refugee children. Social media is rightly rife with righteous anger against those who voted against closing the doors to vulnerable children.
I have blogged before that for the follower of Jesus welcoming refugees is simply what we do. Jesus said that those who would get into heaven were those who fed him, gave him a drink, gave him a room and clothes. When do we do this to him? When we do it to the least of these. So, the call is there to respond to the stranger, the homeless, the fleeing asylum seekers.
The Old Testament was also commanding a welcoming of the refugee. It is mentioned in Deuteronomy but expanded on in Leviticus. Leviticus chapter 19 verse 34 says, “The alien who resides with you shall be to you as the citizen among you; you shall love the alien as yourself, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God.” The people of God knew what it was to live in another country and were to treat people well, remembering that they were not.
If the Old Testament people of God knew refugee, and indeed slavery status, then the New Testament starts with another such story. Jesus himself was a refugee. That Christmas story tells us that when the death squads hit the streets around Bethlehem Joseph and Mary were those parents heading somewhere else for safety. It is interesting to then take a wee side-look at why the death squads were sent. Herod was frightened that this baby would take away his place, his power, his comfort.
Are we in danger of becoming the Herod of the refugee story? When our own comfort eradicates our compassion for those in need we have lost something at the core of our humanity. There is no doubt that welcoming batch after batch of refugees into our country might threaten our wealth and comfort. It might be hard to sustain. Well actually it will be hard to sustain at the same standard of living that we are used to. However, for the Jesus follower our wealth at the cost of other people’s misery is something the prophets condemned.
As I edited this blog I was caught by that last sentence… “Our wealth at the cost of other people’s misery”. It reminded me of the parable of Lazarus. It is a frightening story that Jesus tells about how the wealthy who walk past the poor, and do nothing for them, end up in hell with too great a chasm between the way they lived and the ways of God. It is one Jesus story that the present day western human being needs to read, listen and hear. We are the wealthy. The refugees sit at our city gate. When the maintenance of our own selfish decadent comfortable life votes out poor and vulnerable children we are a very sick and damned society indeed.
The majority of our MPs voted “No room for Jesus in the UK Inn”.
Don’t get me wrong. It will cost us to take in 3000 refugee children. Jesus told those of us who were Christians that it would. “Deny yourself, take up your cross and follow me,” is perfect advice for such a time as this. Humanity is in a crisis. Humanity is made in the image of God. God’s heart goes out to humanity in such a crisis. God demands that we follow Jesus into such a crisis and lay down our lives for those he loves.
The call to give up our lives and comforts for others was not a nice wee refrain to fill up our Sunday Church readings with lovely literature. It was a command to revolution... at all costs!