Bombs. Long lines of refugees waiting for trains. Weary women in colorful scarves. Soldiers holding babies. Unspeakable horrors of war. We’ve seen the heartbreaking news reports of Afghans clinging to the outside of cargo planes and Ukrainians fleeing to nearby borders. Reporters have shown us the situation through their lenses.
But what would it look like for us to see the current refugee crises through Jesus’ eyes? What does He see going on in the chaos of our world? As Christ-followers we are called to view the world through His eyes.
The US has already received over 75,000 Afghan refugees and is preparing to receive thousands of Ukrainians in the months ahead. The numbers are overwhelming but at the same time we can become numb to these realities.
My recent experience with an Afghan friend helped me understand more about what it means to view our ever-changing world through a biblical lens and see people the way Christ sees them. I want to share with you three themes that emerged
A Communal Responsibility
I met Esin this summer when I volunteered to help her with conversational English. My decision to meet weekly with her was rooted in having learned what the Bible says about welcoming the stranger.
I love that Jesus is such a clear example to us of loving the stranger.
Matthew 25:35 says, “For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me.” In the Old Testament the Jews are exhorted in Leviticus 19:33-34: “When a stranger sojourns with you in your land, you shall not do him wrong. You shall treat the stranger who sojourns with you as the native among you, and you shall love him as yourself, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt: I am the LORD your God.” I love that Jesus is such a clear example to us of loving the stranger.
Knowing an individual refugee like Esin brought clarity to why welcoming the stranger is so important—I am reminded in each encounter the same truth I see in Ephesians 2:19. I was once a stranger to God, which is the ultimate expression of being a stranger. As I grow in awareness of what the Word says about my responsibility to the stranger I am in a position to view this part of my world the way Jesus sees it.
A Posture of Empathy
As I got to know Esin and learned more about her story my compassion grew. She spoke about missing her extended family in Kabul deeply and worrying for their safety. And in the midst of her worry she is so grateful to live here in safety with her husband and three girls. What a complicated mix of emotions.
We encounter story after story of Jesus noticing people—women, the sick, and the marginalized.
As I have connected with refugees there is a common desire to be noticed and listened to as they share their story. We encounter story after story of Jesus noticing people—women, the sick, and the marginalized. Listening and noticing are ways that we can follow His example and view our refugee friends the way He does. Listening and noticing are not actually intuitive, especially in a cross- cultural setting and with language barriers, but learning to listen and notice well are powerful ways to show compassion to our refugee friends.
A Part of God’s Story
Seeing the refugee crisis through the eyes of Christ involves understanding His sovereignty over the migration of peoples,whether they are Afghan evacuees, Ukranians fleeing war or refugees from a myriad of other countries. What is happening in our world does not take God by surprise. There is way more going on in the spiritual realm than what we are seeing through the lens of the evening news.
God is the one who determines where people will live (Acts 17:26). As I engage with Esin in the midst of this crisis I sense there is something reassuring to her that I welcome her and view her being here as part of God’s story and work in the world.
God is orchestrating this enormous migration of refugees to a place where there are so many people who can extend the love of Christ to them.
We as Christ followers have the amazing opportunity to be the hands and feet of Jesus to the many refugees who are fleeing danger in hopes of finding a safe place. Maybe that place will be your city, or even your neighborhood. When I think specifically about how closed Afghanistan has been to the gospel, I am in awe that God is orchestrating an enormous migration of Afghans to a place where there are so many people who can extend the love of Christ to them.
Consider what next step God might have for you as you seek to love the stranger in your community. Perhaps God is inviting you to pray or donate? Or taking it a step further, your next step could be befriending a refugee getting involved with a refugee ministry. Whatever God is calling you to, we pray that all would embody a Christ-like posture toward refugees wherever we encounter them.