Read the following verses slowly and carefully think about them: For the Lord your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great God, mighty and awesome, who shows no partiality nor takes a bribe. He administers justice for the fatherless and the widow, and loves the stranger, giving him food and clothing. Therefore love the stranger… (Deut. 10:17-19a).
In a society where we are taught from a young age to treat a stranger with suspicion, these words spoken by God are sometimes not easy to digest – let alone adhere to. Simply because we have been conditioned by circumstances and our culture to do differently. Yet, God commands us in His Word to love the stranger.
To love a stranger means to take off the unbiblical lenses through which we often look at our neighbour – lenses of racism, self-centeredness, pride, fear. These are only a few of the hindrances to love that often lurk in our hearts. Once we have put on the lenses of love, we will see a different picture.
How will you know which lenses you are wearing? With which lenses are you looking at the stranger and more specifically, the refugees in your city or nation?
You can determine this by answering the following questions as honestly as possible:
- What are your first thoughts when a refugee moves into your neighbourhood?
- How do you feel when you see reports of refugees seeking asylum in your country?
- Would you intentionally reach out to them with kindness?
Your answer to these questions should give you an indication of the lenses you are wearing. And it would be wise to make amends in the sight of God (if needed).
Father, Your Word brings correction and converts my soul. Thank You for Your light that shines in my heart and removes all impurities. Teach me Your commandments and I will follow them diligently (Psalm 19:7,11).
Why are the strangers on my doorstep?
Foreigners seeking a better future in another nation is a reality across the globe. South Africa is not a stranger to this phenomenon either. According to Stats SA, the number of foreign-born people living in South Africa in 2020 was around 3.9 million. This includes both the documented and undocumented. The United Nations population division estimates that there were 4.2 million international migrants living in South Africa in 2019. This, it said, represents 7.2% of the country’s total population.*
There are many reasons why people seek to rebuild their lives in a different country, of which a better job or education are most common. Unfortunately, there are also negative reasons why people uproot, leave their beloved nation, and flee to another country. These reasons include persecution, armed conflicts, climate catastrophes or other crises. Some people feel unsafe and threatened due to their ethnicity, religion, gender, or political opinions.
The plight of refugees
A great escape from life-threatening situations can be challenging and dangerous. There are reports of refugees who have run into various tribulations in securing a better future for themselves. Human trafficking, daily racism, xenophobia, discrimination, and a lack of food and shelter are a few challenges refugees face in their hope for a life of stability.
They are far from home and everything familiar. Some feel isolated and rejected, drawn away from everything that makes a home truly home – culture, food, relatives, and friends.
What does the Lord require of us according to His Word?
1.To love others
A lawyer asked Jesus the question of who our neighbour is, referring to the first and second commandments. In response to his question, Jesus told the parable of the Good Samaritan. The Good Samaritan was the only one of three persons who responded to a stranger in need. A stranger who was from a different people group. Not only did he assist the person who was ill-treated (in this case attacked by robbers), but covered all his expenses until he was restored to health (Luke 10:25-37). Show refugees the love of Christ and treat them with dignity and respect.
2. Take care of the needs of others
I was hungry and you gave Me food; I was thirsty and you gave Me drink; I was a stranger and you took Me in; I was naked and you clothed Me; I was sick and you visited Me; I was in prison and you came to Me.’ “Then the righteous will answer Him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry and feed You, or thirsty and give You drink? When did we see You a stranger and take You in, or naked and clothe You? Or when did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?’ And the King will answer and say to them, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me.’ (Matthew 25:350-40).
Whatever we do in response to the felt need of someone else, we do unto the King, Our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ. Refugees need physical, emotional and spiritual care. Be sure to recognise and care for the whole person.
3. Be hospitable
Do not forget to entertain strangers, for by so doing some have unwittingly entertained angels. (Hebrews 13:12). Let God’s Spirit of love drive out fear in you. Reach out to refugees in your neighbourhood or city.
What can we pray?
The nations have come to your doorstep. The church can share the gospel with them. Pray for the church to reach out to the foreigners by bringing the gospel of Jesus Christ to them in practical ways, not only meeting physical needs, but also sharing the cross of Christ. To me (Paul), who am less than the least of all the saints, this grace was given, that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ, and to make all see what is the fellowship of the mystery, which from the beginning of the ages has been hidden in God who created all things through Jesus Christ. (Ephesians 3:8-9).
2. Women and children
Pray for refugee women and children. They are among the world’s most vulnerable people and make up more than half of the world’s refugee population. Ask God to protect them from people who would like to prey upon them and exploit their vulnerability. Also pray for creative opportunities to open up for refugee children to access education. One example is online learning.
3. Pray for the world
Refugees are representatives of different countries. Pray for these countries and ask the Lord to establish His kingdom and reign within its borders. Bring the matters that caused the people to flee – – wars, poverty, persecution – before the Lord, for He will hear the cry of those in bondage (Exodus 2:23-25). Also, ask the Lord to create the opportunity for refugees to return to their countries of origin once stable and non-threatening conditions have been restored.
4. Pray for the host countries
Pray for governments to assist asylum seekers efficiently and provide applicants with documentation that can assist children with access to schools, adults for employment and proper health care. Ask the Lord to remove any restrictive laws that make if near impossible for refugees to integrate into their host country.
5. Pray for world leaders
World leaders need the wisdom of God to respond to the global refugee crisis. Ask God to fill and guide them with His wisdom that is pure, peaceable, without partiality and hypocrisy in their decision-making (James 3:17).
God is calling you to make a difference. How will you respond?
*Source: Eyewitness News