Many stories about refugees have been emerging over the past few days. You may have heard this one but it’s worth sharing again.
An evil leader in a small middle eastern town caused local terror by doing the unthinkable – killing infants. One of the families there was able to miraculously escape by crossing the border with their infant. They fled to a nearby country that they hoped beyond hope would take them in as refugees. The irony was that this country had once enslaved their ancestors, creating a tension that made everyone extremely uncomfortable. Thankfully, because this receiving country apparently had reasonable policies in place despite this historic tension, they took them in. And the family found life-saving refuge.
Some have debated the claim. But let’s be clear.
Jesus was a refugee.
And the implications mean something for today.
Make no mistake. Mary and Joseph fled from terror with an infant Jesus. Egypt had every reason to refuse them because of extreme past tension. They did not. Perhaps they actually had reasonable policies in place.
Either way, could they have ever known that as they allowed them entry, they were opening their doors to the Savior of the world? Oh the irony. This same nation whose leader had once killed Hebrew babies now took in a Hebrew baby whose own leader was killing…Hebrew babies.
“But that was another time, different circumstances, and THAT infant was the actual Messiah,” we might all too quickly object. And then we remember. We remember that refugee infant who was given refuge and grew into an adult rabbi who described the implications of caring for and not caring for the “least of these.”
Jesus: “Whatever you did/didn’t do for the least of these, you did/didn’t do for me.”
The religious: “But we didn’t realize that was YOU.”
Jesus: “It was.”
Yes, there are “least of these” everywhere. Right here in our own cities. All around the world.
And then, there are some who are desperately fleeing terror looking for refuge. Helpless. Hopeless. Innocent.
Sure they could go looking for refuge somewhere else. We could debate whether or not they should or even could. But for very legitimate reasons many seek refuge in the United States of America, a country built upon open hearts and open arms. A country built upon equality and justice for all. A nation with the responsibility of recognizing itself as blessed, not for itself alone, but for the purpose of being a compassionate presence back to the world.
There are parallels.
God gave Israel some pretty specific warnings about never forgetting that they were not to be exclusive but always “a light to the Gentiles.” He reminded them constantly that they themselves were once slaves in Egypt (sound familiar?) who “cried out” for refuge. He reminded them to never forget the outsiders, the marginalized, and oppressed. Never. Ever. Forget. Because if they did, God made it plain they were living outside the purpose for which they were created.
But they forgot.
And when they did, God became flesh. To model an inclusive, embracing, even suffering love for the sake of the outsider, oppressed, poor, and marginalized. To answer that ancient, tragic question of Cain whose brother’s blood “cried out” for justice. Am I my brother’s keeper? An answer God would model in the flesh through Jesus with an emphatic, “YES! Always. Always. Always.” And just when humanity narrowed “brother” or “neighbor” to blood relative or person next door or race or nation, Jesus shattered that border too. THAT kind of boundary-shaking love got him put on a cross.
May we never forget.
As individuals. As the church. As a nation. May we not screen out Jesus, who didn’t just live in the flesh 2000 years ago, but in many faces, colors, and nationalities, stands at the borders yet again as an innocent refugee.
May we open our hearts, our eyes, our arms, and our homes. May we not live in fear. But in hope. Yes, secure the borders rationally, be responsible, and oppose terror and injustice diligently. But not at the expense of the helpless. Not even for a day.