How should the church care for refugees?

God’s Word gives us clear principles about caring for people, especially people in need. In our current day and age, refugees are in great need. We also use the terms “asylum-seeker” and “displaced person”, but we’re talking about anybody for whom their “home” – the place where their heart feels most secure and at peace – is no longer available to them, or has been abused or shattered.

Can you imagine?

Often the taking away of home has been very fast and surprising. It was also violent and scary. They may long to go back but are unable to, or their home has been destroyed. And “home” may not just be the family space of a house, but the cultural familiarities of a community and the laws and structures of a country as well. Can you imagine what that is like?

We can’t always know someone else’s situation

We might know what it’s like to move from living in one place to living in another, but usually this has been a conscious decision, planned in advance, and the style of life is very similar. We might even know what it’s like to lose our house in a natural disaster, but usually this is temporary and there is community and government support. Moving house or losing a house may help us sympathise with refugees, but we should not presume we know what losing ‘home’ feels like. Can you be open to not knowing what someone’s situation is like?

Continue to remember

Even if we may not be able to empathise with people who have lost ‘home’, God’s Word encourages us to remember people who are suffering (Hebrews 13:3), and feel what they are feeling (Romans 12:15). Can you listen to someone who may not have people to talk to? Can you cry with someone who hasn’t felt safe enough to cry?

Finding a new home

For many people who have had home taken away from them, the painful journey does not end after arriving in a new place. Even though this place is home to us, we must not assume that it can easily become home to other people. Jesus commands us to “love your neighbor as yourself”, showing in the Parable of the Good Samaritan that all people are our neighbours (Luke 10:27-37). Therefore, as Christians, we are to love all people, and not show favouritism (James 2:1). Are you willing and able to develop friendship with someone who might not have friends in this country? Can you love someone who is different to you?

In God’s eyes, the most important way we can love anybody is through proclaiming the life-giving gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ.  As someone that is both God and human, Jesus understands what all humans go through, even the plight of refugees (Hebrews 4:15). We may not be able to feel with someone, but Jesus can. Through faith, Jesus gives us a home in him (Galatians 2:20), and promises us an eternal home (John 14:1-4; Philippians 3:20). Can you point someone who feels hopeless, to the hope we have in Jesus?

Loving our neighbours

God’s Word tells us that spiritual and emotional care needs to go hand in hand with caring for physical needs as well (James 2:14-17). We are to show hospitality (Hebrews 13:2). Can you offer your spare room as accommodation for people whose homes have been destroyed? Can you share a meal with someone who has been starving? Can you talk to, and listen to someone, who wants to improve their English speaking? Can you give one of your toys to someone who had to leave all of theirs behind?

Reuben Birchley
Living Church (Creek Road)