Exodus and Exile

From beginning to end the Bible is a narrative of migration, compiled from the stories of migrants. Adam and Eve are exiled. Abraham leaves his home for the Promised Land. Joseph was a resident alien. Moses and the Israelites find freedom through emigration. Displacement follows empire. Jesus lived his life on the move; a child refugee, born away from home, who become an itinerant preacher. His disciples later understood themselves as sojourners for the gospel. Scripture is history read through the experiences of exodus and exile.

But we do not need to look to the past for stories of migration. Today it is estimated that there are over 232 million people - 3.2 percent of the world's population - who live outside of their country of origin. Over 19.5 million of these people are refugees forced to flee their homes by conflicts and disasters.

A challenge for those of us who wish to connect our faith with the world in which we live is to discern how the Bible's stories of migration might shape our own attitudes and responses to the present refugee crisis. Here are three points to begin your own reflections.

First, God cares for migrants and refugees. In Leviticus 19:34 God draws on Israel's own experience of leaving Egypt and wandering in the wilderness as a way of showing them how they should treat migrants: "You shall treat the stranger who sojourns with you as the native among you, and you shall love him as yourself, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God."

Second, how we treat others is a reflection of our love for God. Throughout his ministry Jesus reflected God's love for outsiders through his actions but also by identifying himself with the hungry, the thirsty, the naked, the sick and imprisoned - conditions experienced by refugees. Yet Jesus goes further by telling his followers that how they treated the oppressed is a reflection of how they treat him (Matt 25: 45).

Finally, by recognizing God's love for migrants and Jesus' teaching that our own treatment of others is a reflection of our love for God, we begin to see that our faith cannot be disconnected from the ongoing sufferings of millions seeking safety and freedom around the world. How then could our actions reflect God's love for migrants and refugees by counteracting closed borders with open hearts?