“Not our people, not our problem.”
Though it’s usually not said so blatantly, this notion is the underlying principle that drives disregard for refugees—as if being from another country diminishes the worth of a human life and dismisses our responsibility to care.
Meanwhile, we forget that Jesus—our God made flesh—fled with his parents to Egypt and lived as a refugee until King Herod died (Matt 2:13-15). We forget that this earth is not our home—that we were made for an eternal one where people of every tribe, tongue, and nation will dwell together, reconciled to each other and to God through the redeeming blood of Christ. We forget that the Christian imperative to love our neighbor expands past our borders, and that the Great Commission isn’t just accomplished by going to other nations but by receiving them.
Regardless of our differing opinions on policy—which are important but allow room for disagreement—we are all called to view and treat refugees as fellow image bearers of God. We are to be demonstrators of mercy and justice in all things and towards all people. Not just towards fellow citizens, but also towards our Syrian, Burmese, Iraqi, and Sudanese neighbors. Not just towards fellow Christians, but also towards the Muslim, Buddhist, Sikh, and atheist. In doing this, we testify to the dignity of life.
But “life” is too abstract if we think in numbers, statistics, and profiles. It’s easy to distance ourselves from needs by growing comfortable with the term “refugee,” forgetting that these refugees are men, women, and children. As is always the case in the pro-life movement, we will only value life from womb to tomb when we humanize the people we speak of. It’s not just a fetus, it’s a baby. It’s not just a refugee family, it’s a father, a mother, a son, and a daughter—people reeling from the trauma that drove them away from their homes.
In many ways, they are just like the rest of us. They celebrate birthdays and weddings and babies. They eat together, laugh together, play together. They have strengths and weaknesses, interests and aversions. They walk through similar trials too—marriage problems, parenting struggles, a difficult diagnosis, loneliness, bullies at school.
But underneath all of these similarities, there is a suffering that underscores their pain and beckons our response. As one of my refugee friends navigates the special education system for her son with autism, she does so while struggling to learn English and mourning indefinite separation from the rest of her family. While another refugee friend faces financial pressures, he does so while dealing with PTSD and ongoing medical complications after being kidnapped and tortured in his home country. On top of all the individual struggles refugees face, they also mourn the loss of their homes, their cultures, and their loved ones.
The need is great, as is our opportunity to express the love of Christ.
We can wrap around Christian brothers and sisters who’ve endured religious persecution, demonstrating that our Father has not forgotten them. We can proclaim the name of Jesus—the friend of sinners—to those who are lonely because of their circumstances and lost because of their sins. We can tell of a Savior who shed the blood of redemption to people who witnessed the bloodshed of destruction. In Jesus, there is not only forgiveness for sins, but hope for despair, comfort for affliction, and joy for sorrow.
And with this good news, we can demonstrate the goodness of God through our actions. As he generously provided for us, we can generously provide for refugees—buying groceries, underwriting rent, sharing our possessions, supporting worthy ministries working on their behalf. As God dealt kindly with us, we can deal kindly with them—teaching them English, accompanying them to doctor’s appointments, building friendships despite the discomfort of language barriers.
In Christ, we have received much. In Christ, we can give much. We know what it was like to be strangers until Jesus called us friends. We know what it was like to be orphaned enemies of God until he adopted us into his family. Even now, we know what it’s like to be sojourners in a strange land, longing for our real home.
Because God welcomed us at great cost to himself, we can welcome our refugee neighbors.
Author’s note: This article was first published at Morning by Morning