For you were refugees…


Do not mistreat or oppress a refugee, for you were refugees in Egypt.
— Exodus 22

Yeah, I know. In your Bible and in mine, it says “foreigner,” not “refugee.”

That won’t get us off the hook.

The Bible is the story of refugees. It’s the story of those who were displaced. It’s the story of a family who sought shelter in Egypt when famine decimated their land.

They weren’t just “foreigners” or “migrants.”

They were refugees.

When the crisis was over, when they were settled comfortably in their homes, they were told to remember what it was like—and to extend hospitality to other refugees.

Centuries later, the children of Abraham became refugees again when their homes were razed and their loves ones cut down by war. Exiled to a faraway land, they were the ones to whom God said, “I know the plans I have for you, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future.”

God wants to prosper refugees.

God wants to give refugees hope and a future.

If you’re a Christian, you don’t have the luxury of not caring about the greatest refugee crisis since World War II.

We don’t have the luxury of looking away when drowned children’s bodies wash up on a beach.

We don’t get to treat refugees like an invading force. We don’t get to call them a “swarm.” We don’t get to call them “migrants,” either—as if they casually decided one day it’d be fun to live in our country for a change. Euphemisms won’t shield us from our responsibility to act.

It’s been too convenient to misname it as a migrant crisis, because it suggests these people are voluntarily fleeing, whereas in fact, if you’ve been barrel-bombed out of your home three times, life and limb demand that you flee.
—David Milliband, IRC

If you’re a Christian, you don’t get to prioritize your own comfort and security over compassion for someone else.

You just don’t.


I get that throwing the doors open might not have been enough to save Aylan Kurdi and his brother Galip. The present crisis requires countries do more than just liberalize their asylum policies.

But some of us have been using the need for “long-term solutions” as an excuse for doing nothing—or not doing enough.

My own country, the United States, has taken in maybe 1,500 Syrian refugees.

Britain has granted asylum to 5,000 or so.

Canada has welcomed about 1,000. Aylan and Galip were not among them.

We have to do better.


The sad thing is, some of us care more about a clerk in Kentucky going to jail because she defied a court order than we care about children washing up dead on a beach.

Some of us are so worked up about imaginary persecution that we don’t even notice the real thing when it terrorizes, uproots, and kills the innocent.

My brothers and sisters, this should not be.


Almost four decades ago, millions fled Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos. Many took to the sea in flimsy boats, hoping to find refuge somewhere, anywhere. One of them was my friend Cat-Dan. She was three months old when her parents decided they had to get out. You can read her story here.

Thousands of refugees died at sea—perhaps as many as 400,000. The world tried to ignore their plight, just as we’ve tried to ignore those fleeing Syria.

Countries tried shutting their borders. They tried cutting their asylum quotas. Back then, refugees were left to drift at sea; today they’re left to suffocate in the back of a lorry.

Eventually the world saw what was happening, thanks in part to efforts like World Vision’s Operation Seasweep.

There was an outcry, and world leaders were shamed into action. The United States wound up taking 1.4 million refugees. And you know what? They made our country better.

It’s time we were shamed into action again.


There are many ways you can help Syrian refugees. You can support NGOs like World Vision and the International Rescue Committee who are working directly with displaced Syrian families.

You can support the Migrant Offshore Aid Station as they work to save refugees at sea.

You can buy some of my friend Kurt’s artworkFor September, he’s donating everything he earns to help Syrian refugees.

You can demand more from your government. You can sign this White House petition calling on the U.S. to resettle 65,000 Syrian refugees. (That’s the number proposed by the International Rescue Committee.)

We can do 65,000. We might even become a better country for it.


As Christians, our story is a refugee story. Never forget that. Never look away. Never fail to show compassion to the refugees in our world.

Photo by Freedom House on Flickr / CC BY 2.0

14 thoughts on “For you were refugees…

  1. Thank you for these resources. This has been on my heart. My grandmother was a refugee twice before she was 30. My dad spent the first 2 years of his life in a refugee camp waiting to come to the U.S. This hits close.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Powerful! Thank you for this, so we can share, and perhaps open conversations that might otherwise not have happened, or at least make someone give thought to this in a deeper, more personal way. Peace to you.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. hanks for sharing this. People forget we or all our ancestors came from all came from somewhere else.-many escaping hard lives This situation is such a tragedy. We all came from God. We didn’t pick where we would be born. Evil leaders of rogue nations are hurting innocents. We all need to open our heart to these poor people, There is so much money in the top 1% going to no good purpose. Well here is one. Open your hearts to this message from God. As Jesus said ‘What you have done unto these the least of my brethren, you have done it unto me.”

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Ben,
    Extraordinarily well written and heartfelt. One can feel genuine emotion in each word. I’m a conservative intellectual but I agree with all of your sentiments. Although many disagree about how we arrived at this nightmare for these precious refugees, the truth is God’s word should and does trump everything else. They are not statistics, they are individuals whom our Lord created and loves as much as anyone else. We must deal with their horrible plight as well as pursue policies and strategies that allow people to live in their homeland in peace. We are all refugees. I look forward to your next divinely- inspired article. God bless you


  5. We are born into this world with a relationship with our parents, and when we die all that we can take with us is the relationships we made when we were alive. How we treat our neighbors is the crux of the refugees crisis. Your post talks directly to the issue.


  6. >If you’re a Christian, you don’t get to prioritize your own comfort and security over compassion for someone else.

    >You just don’t.

    Not necessarily.

    See 1 Tim Ch 5, which clearly states that strings can be attached to charity, and there’s no universal obligation to give to or support people in need beyond one’s own immidate family.

    See Galatians Ch 6, which states that each person is obligated to carry his own burden; we are ordered to help, but with the implicit understanding that everyone carries their own weight in life and we are simply not capable of fixing everyone’s problems.

    Nowhere in scripture are believers compelled to use government as a tool of charity.

    >Almost four decades ago, millions fled Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos.

    Hmm, you convinently failed to mention why those people were fleeing.

    They were fleeing communists. They were fleeing social justice radicals who ignored a UN partition of north and south vietnam and who rejected the results of elections.

    They were fleeing violent anti-capitalists who wanted to redistribute wealth away from the upper classes and oligarchs.

    They were fleeing social engineers and intellectal visionaries who believed they were entitled to reshape socity and had the power to change human nature.

    The worst attrocities occurred AFTER Congress (dominated by Democrats, BTW) cut off all funding for the Vietnam War. The communists swarmed the south, killing millions.

    The communists took over Cambodia, killing about 20% of the population.

    While American college protestors cheered the end of the war, the communists were filling the streets with blood.

    Your smugness is exceeded only by your ignorance of history and scripture.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s