In Focus


MunnRichardAbraham, Moses, the Israelites, Jesus, and members of the early Church were all refugees. Scripture is forceful with the admonition to care for the alien and foreigner in your midst (Lev. 19:33, Deut. 10:19, and Ex. 22:21).

While the displacement of people due to hunger, hardship, or hostilities is invariably part of our story, today it is the sheer number of refugees and asylum seekers that is unparalleled in history.

What principles can guide us in response to this human need?

Human history

The concept of “alien” and “foreigner” is central to the self–awareness of the Old Testament Israelites. At times, key figures were aliens in a foreign land. At other times, an entire people—a nation—was in such a predicament.

Hunger and horrors

During a famine, Abram and his family relocated to fertile Egypt. In the New Testament, identification with the plight of refugees continues. The infant Jesus starts His life as a refugee when His parents must flee to Egypt and escape the brutality of a despot king.

Hospitality and healing

Today, such resilience, resourcefulness, and adaption still form the refugee fabric. A sure agent of healing in that regard is the hospitality of the host people.

The people of God are exhorted to welcome and serve the alien. We might say the biblical definition of hospitality is to treat a foreigner like a brother.*

by Colonel Richard Munn

*The word xenophobia (Xeno meaning foreign; phobia meaning fear) or “fear of foreigners.” The New Testament Greek word for hospitality is philoxenia (philo – brotherly love; xenia – foreign).

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