So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God. -Ephesians 2:19
Imagine you are one of the 4.18 million Syrian refugees seeking to find a new place to eat and sleep. You have fled your home, probably leaving loved ones and the vast majority of your earthly possessions. You have lots of questions for your family. Where will we sleep tonight? Where will we get food? Will anyone speak my language? Where will we end up? Will I be able to find a job?
Contrast that uncertain state of being with our current circumstances. We have different kinds of questions. Where will we go out to eat tonight? What kind of car should I buy? Which college will my children attend? Where can I get the new iPhone? In many ways, we don’t have much in common with refugees.
According to the Bible, however, non-Jewish believers in Jesus are described as being former spiritual refugees. In Ephesians 2:19 Paul says that Gentile believers were first refugees (strangers and aliens) with no home, no roots, no claim to land, and no inheritance. Yet because of the death and resurrection of Jesus we are now called “fellow citizens with the saints” and part of the “household of God.” In short- we were out, but now we are in.
The recent refugee crisis brings this black and white image into full color. Think about that word picture for a moment. We were spiritually homeless, wandering without hope (Ephesians 2:12). But now, because of Jesus, we who were on the outside are insiders (Ephesians 2:13). Paul compares coming to faith in Jesus Christ (and becoming a part of the community of believers that is the church) to finally being at home. Words such as security, confidence, and hope come to mind.
By faith in Jesus we now have citizenship with the saints- with all the rights and privileges that entails. By faith in Jesus we now have a family- the church. We are no longer refugees.
This spiritual truth should lead us to compassionate care for literal refugees. In fact, God says as much to Israel in Exodus 22:21, “You shall not wrong a sojourner or oppress him, for you were sojourners in the land of Egypt.” They could relate, and so they should show special care for sojourners.
Care for refugees is not our natural response. Whenever you have over four million displaced persons seeking a new home, problems will arise. Not surprisingly, fear and suspicion are common responses to mass migration. As one example, the conservative Swiss political party won big in recent elections due to an anti-immigration stance. Will the refugees take jobs? Will their presence result in higher taxes? Will they try to take over the country? Fear says, “Better just to send them somewhere else. They don’t belong here.”
Let’s never forget that we didn’t belong as citizens with the saints or as members of the household of God. Let’s never forget that Jesus brought us near when we were far away. Perhaps God is giving Christians an opportunity to show love to these refugees precisely because we were refugees too.