The Bible Supports Helping Refugees — Here's Proof
As you’ve probably heard by now, President Donald Trump signed off on an Executive Order that indefinitely bans all Syrian refugees, and temporarily bans all citizens of seven predominantly Muslim nations, from entering the United States. Reasonably, people all over the world have been angry about this since the ban was announced last weekend. I’m angry about it, too, but I live in a part of the U.S. where that anger puts me in the minority. With the exception of St. Louis, Columbia, and Kansas City, most of Missouri is home to conservative Republicans who claim to be Christians. I know my home state well enough to realize that citing, “What Would Jesus Do?” is probably going to be more compelling than holding up signs that say, “RESIST.” Fortunately, my former Sunday School teacher and mentor, Robert McDonald, agreed to talk to Bustle about how the Bible supports helping refugees and foreigners.
In addition to being my Sunday School teacher for many years, McDonald earned a Bachelor’s degree in psychology and Bible from Mid-America University, a Master’s degree in theology and social work from Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, and works as a therapist. Since I haven’t voluntarily read the Bible for nearly a decade, I asked McDonald to re-educate me about all the ways the Bible discourages Trump’s immigration ban.
Here are just six ways the Bible supports helping refugees, backed up by an actual scholar of The Word.
Jesus, Mary, And Joseph Were Refugees
“The one thing the Bible doesn’t do very well is clearly describe anything — with this one very notable exception.” McDonald tells Bustle. “When it comes down to the issue of treatment of immigrants, aliens, and such … not only does it clearly state [that you should help them] — it clearly states it over, and over, and over, and over.”
One of the most compelling ways that the Bible supports helping refugees is the fact that Jesus himself was technically a refugee. According to the Gospel of Matthew, an angel appeared to Joseph in a dream and basically told him to get the hell out of Judea before Herod found his family and killed his son.
As the story goes, King Herod was so worried that Jesus' birth would threaten his reign that he issued a royal decree condemning all of Judea's infant boys to death. Had the Egyptian government banned all Jews from entering their country, it's likely that Jesus would have been executed before his second birthday.
The Parable Of The Good Samaritan Is About Helping Foreigners When No One Else Will
If you've never heard the Parable of the Good Samaritan, it's literally just a fictional story Jesus told to show his followers the importance of helping foreigners. For the sake of clarity, here's the entire passage:
"A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he was attacked by robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead. A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, brought him to an inn and took care of him. The next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper. ‘Look after him,’ he said, ‘and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have."
What's particularly relevant about this story today is the fact that Jesus paints a Samaritan as The Good Guy in his parable. This would have been incredibly controversial during Jesus' time on Earth, because as McDonald tells Bustle, "the Samaritans were really, really, really despised by the Jewish establishment, because they were kind of half-Jewish." McDonald explains, "They were placed there [in Judea] by the Babylonian Syrians ... what they would do is move everybody out, and then move new people in to destabilize the region." Jesus told his followers they could only inherit eternal life if they loved and assisted the same refugees they had been culturally conditioned to loathe and distrust. Sounds awfully familiar, doesn't it?
The Story Of The Woman At The Well Shows Jesus Welcoming A Foreigner
Whereas the Parable of the Good Samaritan was a didactic story Jesus made up to prove a point, the story of The Woman at the Well is about Jesus actually interacting with a Samaritan woman. A Samaritan woman who, it should pointed out, had been married five times and seems to have been pretty outspoken.
In the beginning of the story, Jesus asks The Samaritan Woman for a drink. Since Jews and Samaritans were meant to hate each other, The Samaritan Woman replied, "You are a Jew and I am a Samaritan woman. How can you ask me for a drink?" From there, Jesus and The Samaritan Woman go on to have one of Christ's infamously cryptic conversations about the afterlife. You can read the full story here if you want to, but this is the bottom line: the story of The Woman at The Well proves that Jesus went out of his way to treat the foreigners that everyone else despised as his equals.
In The New Testament, Christians Were All "Aliens" Under Roman Rule
McDonald tells Bustle that while you can find at least 300 scriptures in the Old Testament that will tell you to be kind to refugees and foreigners, there's plenty of ways the New Testament supports helping refugees as well. Since the Roman Empire was in place when the New Testament was written, Jews and Christians alike would have been under Roman rule for the entirety of the New Testament. So, basically, the first Christians would have been considered foreigners in their own nations. As McDonald puts it, "In the New Testament, they [Christians and Jews] were all aliens." McDonald continues, "They were under military occupation the whole time, so they were not citizens in their own land."
The Story Of Phillip & The Ethiopian Eunuch Is All About Trusting Foreigners
In the story of Phillip and the Ethiopian Eunuch, Phillip sees an unnamed Ethiopian man who also happened to be treasurer to the Queen of Ethiopia. The Ethiopian Eunuch was on his way home after worshipping in Jerusalem, which is why Phillip runs into him after being instructed by an angel to travel from Jerusalem to Gaza. Instead of rolling past the foreigner, Phillip stops to ask him if he understands what he's reading. The Ethiopian, who is reading the book of Isaiah, responds: "How can I, unless someone explains it to me?"
From there, Phillip explains the book of Isaiah to the Ethiopian Eunuch. Then, when the Ethiopian Eunuch asks Phillip to baptize him, they find some water, do the thing, and say their goodbyes. So not only does this story support trusting foreigners, it essentially says you should go out of your way to help them with whatever they need, and also make time to communicate with them.
Numerous Scriptures Clearly State That You're Supposed To Help Immigrants
The Bible is chock-full of scriptures that say you should always love and help foreigners who might be in need. In Exodus 23:9, the Bible says, "Do not oppress a foreigner; you yourselves know how it feels to be foreigners, because you were foreigners in Egypt." Later on in the book of Malachi, God tells the children of Israel, "I will be quick to testify against sorcerers, adulterers and perjurers, against those who defraud laborers of their wages, who oppress the widows and the fatherless, and deprive the foreigners among you of justice." In Leviticus 19:9-10, God even tells his children to leave some grapes in their vineyards just in case a hungry foreigner passes through: "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." And these are just a few of the scriptures that instruct God's children to help refugees.
McDonald says Leviticus 19:33 is his favorite scripture on helping refugees, because it basically says that no one is illegal. "It says that when an alien lives in your land, not only are you not to oppress them, but the alien who resides with you is to be a citizen."
So, there you have it. Evidently, God has a special place in his heart for foreigners and refugees of all kinds — and The Good Book literally couldn't make it any clearer.