Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the LORD, “He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.”
He will cover you with his feathers, and under his wings you will find refuge; his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart. You will not fear the terror of night, nor the arrow that flies by day…
If you say, “The LORD is my refuge,” and you make the Most High your dwelling, no harm will overtake you, no disaster will come near your tent. (Psalm 91:1-2, 4-5, 9-10 NIV)
I love the image of the Lord being a refuge. I love the idea of safety and comfort when the world is terrifying and the storms are raging and the battles feel like they are being fought outside my front door. Not long ago, I wrote an FYI on the idea of the joy of the Lord being our refuge and what it is to find strength in the fact that the Lord takes His joy in us. Having a safe place is not only a nice thing, it is necessary for a human being to be able to thrive.
So as I find my safety in the arms of my savior who has welcomed me, weary and burdened, into the safe haven He promised, I am given a name: refugee.
The primary definition of the word “refugee” is a person who flees for refuge or safety, especially to a foreign country, as in a time of political upheaval or war. I am constantly that person, fleeing to the safety and refuge of a good Father when everything around me seems to break.
But here’s the difference between myself and that little boy, covered in ashes and blood, sitting in the back of an ambulance in Syria: no one tried to kill me today. I have never been persecuted or had my life threatened by extremists carrying AK-47s and grenade launchers down the street. No one in my neighborhood has ever died from or been orphaned or widowed by a suicide bomb.
This week someone made a despicable comment about refugees being like Skittles candy, saying, “If you had a bowl of skittles and three were poisoned but the rest were fine, would you still eat them? That’s our Syrian refugee problem.”
Refugees, friends, are not sugar and gelatin and red dye 40. They are human beings! They are mothers, fathers, and CHILDREN who are desperate not to wake up next to war every morning. And each and every single one of them is an image bearer of the Creator God we stand up and worship on Sunday mornings. They are His children and they are thirsting and starving and drowning and penniless and imprisoned, just hoping to find safety from the terror of the night and the arrows (and bullets) that fly by day.
This is one of the times it takes guts to stand up and say, “We have to welcome refugees because it is the second greatest commandment, to love our neighbors as ourselves.”
In Matthew 25:31-46, Jesus lays out the only prerequisite for entrance into eternal life, and it is this:
“Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave my something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’” (v. 34-36 NIV)
When the recipients of the inheritance asked when they had seen Jesus like that, he replied: “Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sister of mine, you did for me” (v. 40 NIV).
When those who hadn’t fed the hungry, clothed the naked, or invited in the stranger attempted to mount their defense, no amount of church attendance stickers could save them.
This isn’t a political statement or a plea for votes, this is reality: we are ALL refugees. If you find your shelter under the wings of a loving and wondrous God, if you seek refuge in the cleft of the rock that the Almighty has made, then you are a refugee. And the moment we open our hearts to the possibility of opening our doors to those who are thirsty and hungry, naked and war torn, we begin to love our neighbors as ourselves.
Ali can be reached via email here. Photo credit: Aleppo Media Center.