you have heard it said

“You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘You shall not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.’ But I tell you that anyone who is angry with a brother or sister will be subject to judgment."  –Jesus (Matthew 5: 21) “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery. But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.”–Jesus (Matthew 5:27-28)

“You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’ But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also. And if anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, hand over your coat as well. If anyone forces you to go one mile, go with them two miles. Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you.” -Jesus (Matthew 5:38-42)

In the Book of Leviticus, God said, “When you reap the harvest of your land, do not reap to the very edges of your field or gather the gleanings of your harvest. Do not go over your vineyard a second time or pick up the grapes that have fallen. Leave them for the poor and the foreigner. I am the Lord your God.” (Leviticus 19:9-10)

And again, “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.” –God (Leviticus 19:34)

Jesus, per the usual, went one step further than what had been passed down through the generations. He went to the hated foreigners, touched the outcasts, spoke life to those shunned by the community. And ultimately, Jesus literally laid His very life down so that all people could experience true life, free from sin, oppression, and death. And not just those of us who believe in Him now, but everyone bearing God’s image, everyone on this planet.

If we are to follow in Jesus’ footsteps (which is the very definition of a disciple of Christ…ahem, a Christian), we too are called to go and bring true freedom to oppressed people all over the world. And the reality is that we don’t even have to actually go anywhere because the foreigners, outcasts, shunned and oppressed are coming here. They’re called “refugees.” A refugee is a person who has been forced to flee their home country and cannot return because of a well-founded fear of persecution due to race, nationality, religion, or membership in a particular social group or political opinion. Reminds me a lot of the people Jesus intentionally sought out…

Refugees are people who are trying to escape the most oppressive regimes in the world, where women and children are raped as a war tactic, where young men don’t exist because they’ve all been murdered, where children are recruited to become soldiers, where people watch their husbands, wives, children murdered in front of their very eyes. Where, some would question if God could possibly even exist. And yet we know, somehow in the mystery of it, He does…We live in this already and not yet world where Jesus began ushering in the Kingdom of Heaven here on earth and then left us to continue on His work. And we’re to continue it until He comes again to complete the redemption of all the world. To not welcome the refugee is to effectively say, “we don’t care that you were born with all the potential in the world, in the image of God, it sucks to be you born in a country that devalues you of all dignity, opportunity to live out your destiny and fulfill your calling in life. I’m sorry you got the short end of the straw. I don’t know what to tell you.”

Jesus went the extra mile to ensure that everyone bearing the image of God would have full access to experiencing the fullness of life here on earth, as it is in heaven. The question is simple, do we follow Him and do the same?

**If you live in Minnesota and are inclined to help welcome and care for the refugees already living here and arriving constantly, Arrive Ministries is an amazing organization. They have worked with refugees landing at MSP for over 15 years. Arrive seeks to provide compassionate and holistic support to uprooted people in our communities in collaboration with churches and community members. Minnesota saw 4,000 refugees enter our borders in 2014 alone. May they no longer be left feeling as an outcast, oppressed and hopeless people.