By Aian Macpherson
Between Trump, May and the dubs scheme and Franklin Graham this has to be said. I wish it did not.
The Hebrew word translated in the following texts as alien is ger. Some people have pointed out rightly that ger, does not simply mean foreigner. Ger have a legal status, a need or right to be away from their home. Ger are also vulnerable as the following verses imply.
Exodus 22:21 You shall not wrong or oppress a resident alien, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt.
Exodus 23:9 You shall not oppress a resident alien; you know the heart of an alien, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt.
Leviticus 19:33 When an alien resides with you in your land, you shall not oppress the alien.
Leviticus 23:22 When you reap the harvest of your land, you shall not reap to the very edges of your field, or gather the gleanings of your harvest; you shall leave them for the poor and for the alien: I am the Lord your God.
Deuteronomy 1:16 I charged your judges at that time: “Give the members of your community a fair hearing, and judge rightly between one person and another, whether citizen or resident alien.
Deuteronomy 27:19 “Cursed be anyone who deprives the alien, the orphan, and the widow of justice.” All the people shall say, “Amen!”
Jeremiah 7:4-12 Do not trust in these deceptive words: “This is the temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord.” For if you truly amend your ways and your doings, if you truly act justly one with another, if you do not oppress the alien, the orphan, and the widow, or shed innocent blood in this place, and if you do not go after other gods to your own hurt, then I will dwell with you in this place, in the land that I gave of old to your ancestors forever and ever.
Malachi 3:5 Then I will draw near to you for judgment; I will be swift to bear witness against the sorcerers, against the adulterers, against those who swear falsely, against those who oppress the hired workers of their wages, the widow and the orphan, against those who thrust aside the alien, and do not fear me, says the Lord of hosts.
See also Leviticus 24:22, Numbers 15:16, Deuteronomy 24:20-21, Zechariah 7:10, Psalm 39:12 and Psalm 94 1-7 and others.
So what are the nearest equivalents today?
Refugees have a legal status, any one fleeing their home land because of persecution or war has the ‘right to seek and be granted asylum in a foreign territory’ (American Convention on Human Rights, art. 22). According to international law “a refugee is defined as a person who ‘owing to well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion, is outside the country of his nationality and is unable or, owing to such fear, is unwilling to avail himself of the protection of that country.’” (Article 1 of the 1951 UN Convention, as modified by the 1967 Protocol).
Even if such international laws did not exist the rights of the ger, alien, would remain because they are a moral right upon which modern law is based, not a legal right alone.
Any person holding a valid visa also has a legal status, a right to reside.
An economic migrant who has a right to work.
As resident aliens all these groups are vulnerable, some more so than others, all are becoming more vulnerable and all should enjoy the support and hospitality of the church. Any ger living among you, of any race or nationality is protected by international law, and a vast quantity of biblical material.
Some say that the ‘alien’ had to convert?
Did ger have to convert in ancient Israel? No. They had to abide by the law, for example Exodus 12:19 ‘For seven days no leaven shall be found in your houses; for whoever eats what is leavened shall be cut off from the congregation of Israel, whether an alien or a native of the land.’ Other examples can be found in Leviticus 17. But ger only had to convert if they want to celebrate the Passover to the Lord, then ‘all his males shall be circumcised; then he may draw near to celebrate it; he shall be regarded as a native of the land. But no uncircumcised person shall eat of it’ Exodus 12:48.
For the Christian in America, Britain, or Germany, this is irrelevant any way in so far as our countries are not theocracies, thank God. The nearest equivalent today for an expectation of conversion would be admission to communion not for a right to asylum!
What about the New Testament?
It is not just the Old Testament that emphasises the good treatment of strangers. In the New Testament the vocabulary changes because the disciples and the church are not a nationality of earth but members of God’s dispersed Kingdom. The thrust however remains the same.
We are to consider ourselves aliens – Ephesians 2:12 ‘remember that you were at that time without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world.’
1 Peter 1:1-2 ‘Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, To the exiles of the Dispersion in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia,’
We are to treat those outside the church well because of the Gospel – 1 Peter 2:11-12 ‘Conduct yourselves honourably among the Gentiles, so that, though they malign you as evildoers, they may see your honourable deeds and glorify God when he comes to judge.’
We are to show hospitality to strangers – Romans 12:13 Contribute to the needs of the saints; extend hospitality to strangers.
Hebrews 13:2 Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by doing that some have entertained angels without knowing it.
And all that is before we even get to the narrative…
Think of Abraham entertaining strangers at the Oaks of mamre. Think of Rehab the Canaanite welcoming God’s people. Ruth the Moabite redeeming Naomi the Israelite. The Samaritan rescuing the man on the road to Jerusalem. The Samaritan woman recognising Jesus. The Syrophoenician woman’s faith. The Ethiopian Eunuch as one of the earliest converts to ‘the way’. The roman centurion’s faith. Cornelius’ faith. God’s support of Hagar (the Egyptian slave) and Ishmael. Think of how God condemned Sihon for blocking the way of a refugee people who looked for legal and peaceful passage. Think of Joseph, Mary and Jesus fleeing to Egypt. Redemption of the lost and enslaved is the narrative of scripture. As is the judgment of their oppressors.
The command of Jesus
Love your neighbour as yourself; do to others as you would have them do to you. Love your enemies. Be holy as he is holy and he emptied himself becoming a servant to all and became obedient even to death on a cross.
“When you give a luncheon or dinner, do not invite your friends, your brothers or sisters, your relatives, or your rich neighbours; if you do, they may invite you back and so you will be repaid. But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed.” (Luke 14).
Even common humanity gets it
Rightly there are atheists pointing out that you should not need a holy book or god to tell you that taking in children, families fleeing war, women fleeing violence, men fleeing execution, torture, famine, religious persecution (even from within their own faith), enforced military service, is the right thing to do. It does not take a Christian to understand that racism is wrong. It is wrong to blame ‘ger’ people, living legally on a visa or with permission to work as an immigrant, for your problems; it is simplistic, often a form of misdirection from the real issues of wealth and power, and thus a form of ‘baring false witness’.
So if they get it, without Christ, without God, without scripture, what is your excuse? Yes you must take in refugees as Christians! You must do it for Christ’s sake.