The daily news cycle drives us face to face with the plight of millions of refugees seeking to escape conflict in Iraq and Syria. These realities hit home for me since I grew up with my missionary parents in the Middle East. We experienced firsthand the ravages of war, being evacuated several times and finally forced to flee for good leaving everything we had behind in Lebanon.
Those who know this part of my history think that my family and I became refugees.
When we came back to the to the United States, family, friends and the church provided for our most basic needs and anything we left behind in Lebanon—food, shelter, safety and security, and even a sense of belonging. Things most refugees, immigrants, or displaced persons do not find so readily in their new context.
What should have been a traumatic experience of being chased away from home and country was not. The provision awaiting us by believers stepping in the gap to provide for our family’s needs has given me an acute sense of what Kingdom living looks like.
In every geographical context there are displaced people and humanitarian needs in close proximity. Christ—the ultimate displaced person coming to earth from heaven—has placed in all of us a strong calling in this world to reach out to the foreigner among us.
“The foreigner residing among you must be treated as your native-born. Love them as yourself, for you were foreigners in Egypt. I am the Lord your God.” – Leviticus 19:34
As the media gives greater coverage to the age-old plight of the displaced, we must ramp up our call to redemptive hospitality—truly loving your neighbor as yourself.
How long has it been since you invited a displaced person to dinner? And by displaced, I don’t just mean geographically. Do you show the love of Christ to people society rejects? A teen parent, foreign immigrants, someone struggling with addiction or sin, or anyone who is different than you are?
“Exile was close to heart of who Jesus was … ‘Foxes have holes, birds have nests, the son of man has no where to lay his head.’ Not just no room at the inn; Jesus was a displaced person. His family, fleeing to Egypt for fear of the life of their first-born child. Yup, Jesus was a refugee.” ~Bono
Nothing will change unless you make redemptive hospitality a priority and make the time for it.
You make room for a new child or someone who marries into the family—why not make room in your family for “the other”?
If you and I are quick to send money to help the displaced “over there,” why are we so quick to ignore those who have been uprooted living in our own backyard? This is a challenge to me as much as you. Kim and I just moved with part of our intention to exercise more redemptive hospitality. I would love to see more people less afraid and more open to putting on the love of Christ and being a light to those in darkness.
Some of us are guilty of spending more time on our spiritual lives honing our apologetics rather than putting them into practice by the simple act of engaging the outsider. You’ll never argue a Muslim into the Kingdom; you love them into the Kingdom. What about offering to pray the sick family or loved ones, kids, and business of a Muslim? They’ll probably let you.