A Prophetic Call to Welcome the Refugee
GER is a Hebrew word that is central to the message of the prophets. It means sojourner, a temporary inhabitant, a newcomer lacking inherited rights, a foreigner. The Old Testament commands that are associated with this three-letter word in the Bible are powerful and have modern-day applications.
“GER stands for widows, orphans and the aliens in your midst. The Old Testament prophets repeated their demands that God’s people protect the most vulnerable people in their society, the GER,” said Pastor John Crosby, Senior Pastor at Christ Presbyterian Church in Edina.
Pastor Crosby told a roomful of people at Calvary Church Roseville in early March, that he believes the prophets call God’s people to treat immigrants and refugees (the aliens in our midst) as the people of Israel wish they had been treated as foreigners in Egypt.
Deuteronomy 24:14-15 (NIV)
Do not take advantage of a hired worker who is poor and needy, whether that worker is a fellow Israelite or a foreigner residing in one of your towns. Pay them their wages each day before sunset, because they are poor and are counting on it. Otherwise they may cry to the Lord against you, and you will be guilty of sin.
Deuteronomy 24:17-18 (NIV)
Do not deprive the foreigner or the fatherless of justice, or take the cloak of the widow as a pledge. Remember that you were slaves in Egypt and the Lord your God redeemed you from there. That is why I command you to do this.
“We need to realize that the Bible itself offers a quilt that shows immigrants are not new to the story of God. When we treat the scriptures as God speaking to us and learn to submit to that Word, we discern that there is an idea that refugees and immigrants are not a brand new issue, but has been here bubbling up and down under the surface,” said Pastor Crosby.
Pastor Crosby continued to point to examples in the Bible of our forefathers and mothers who were immigrants:
“Abraham himself is a nomad, crossing boarders like a gypsy, and we know how gypsies are despised. We talk about Moses as a criminal on the run. Joseph as a child-slave laborer. The children of Jacob fleeing poverty and famine. David a political exile. The King Zedekiah and Jeremiah, prisoners of war. Daniel, Shadrack, his friends, hostages in a foreign land to be converted by the pagans. Jesus himself and his parents, political refugees. The early church scattered around the ancient world from religious persecution that they were fleeing. And Paul and Barnabas, missionaries running from part to part of the Empire learning different languages and cultures, never sure they were welcomed.”
In the New Testament we as God’s people are called repeatedly to practice hospitality.
Romans 12:13 (NIV) Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality.
Hebrews 13:2 (NIV) Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it.
The word hospitality is often made up as a compound of two Greek words: phileo and xenia. Phileo means love. Xenia is the generosity and courtesy shown to those who are far from home and/or associates of the person bestowing guest-friendship. Xenia is the Greek word for which we get the English word xenophobia; xeno means the strangers, the alien, or as used in the Old Testament, the GER.
“So when we’re called to practice hospitality as children of God, we’re called to show love to the stranger. It is for us to ask, ‘Who is the stranger, who is the sojourner, who is the alien in our midst?’” said Bob Oehrig, Executive Director of Arrive Ministries.
Refugee Security Process
At the Standing with Refugees event, Patricia Fenrick, Refugee Workforce Development and Outreach Specialist at the Minnesota Department of Human Services spoke about the refugee security process.
Here is an infographic on the screening process for refugee entry into the United States, an explanation on how refugees are vetted, and the true definition for a refugee: “a person who has been forced to flee his/her homeland and is unable to return because she or he has experienced PERSECUTION or has a WELL-FOUNDED FEAR OF PERSECUTION.”
As we seek to understand how Christians are called to welcome the alien in our midst, be confident in our country’s screening process, knowing that refugees are subject to the highest level of security checks of anybody who travels to the United States; a process that takes a minimum of 18-24 months and involves 6 different federal agencies. But also put your confidence in God’s calling on our lives to remember our ancestors who were once foreigners, and to show hospitality to the stranger.
“We want to be pro-security, and pro-refugee, but most importantly we want to be pro-Bible. What does God’s word say about how we should treat those who He is bringing here?” Oehrig asked.