Refugees – In Our City

We continued our series at Gateway Church in Austin called “Refugee.”

Discuss ways to apply the message here:

Next Steps for your life group or family dinner.

Listen to my message from Gateway South here:

Here are notes from the message from John Burke here:

Maybe you’ve never thought about it, but the Christmas story involves refugees from every angle.

A refugee is someone displaced from their rightful home due to evil.

Not of This World

Jesus came from Heaven, his rightful home, because of the evils of this world. He was born into poverty, among an oppressed minority group—He identified with the sufferings and brokenness of humanity. He did it to set every willing human free from evil’s stranglehold, to set us right with God, and to bring us safely home to God as Citizens of Heaven.

If you have put your trust in Christ, you belong to God and His kingdom, which means you too, are a foreigner—a refugee living in a foreign land, waiting to return home. That’s what God says about all his heroes of faith:

All these people died still believing what God had promised them. They did not receive what was promised, but they saw it all from a distance and welcomed it. They agreed that they were foreigners and nomads here on earth. 14 Obviously people who say such things are looking forward to a country they can call their own. 15 If they had longed for the country they came from, they could have gone back. 16 But they were looking for a better place, a heavenly homeland. That is why God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them.
-Hebrews 11:13-16

It’s worth pondering—do you see yourself as a foreigner here on earth, just passing through, and your real home is in Heaven? Or is this life really what you’re hope and live for ultimately? That determines a lot of how you live. When we live as foreigners knowing our true home is coming, we can live radical, all out, risk-taking, generous, life-giving, care-free, sacrificial lives. That’s how Jesus lived that way among us.

Jesus: A Refugee in Egypt

Jesus was not just a metaphorical refugee. He was a literal refugee after that first Christmas. God came identifying with refugees. Matthew tells us:

Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the reign of King Herod. About that time some wise men from eastern lands arrived in Jerusalem, asking, 2 “Where is the newborn king of the Jews? We saw his star as it rose,[b] and we have come to worship him.” – Matthew 2:1-2

As a side note for those who never thought about this—these wise men, or Maji, were likely from Persia or India, astrologers who saw a sign in the stars of a King of Kings birth. So again, God made it clear even in who he called to worship this newborn King, He is the God of all nations, and what Jesus came to do was for all people of all nations. Not just for the Jews, and not just for the American Christians, for all who would turn back to God in faith.

Matthew goes to explain:

King Herod was deeply disturbed when he heard this, as was everyone in Jerusalem. 4 He called a meeting of the leading priests and teachers of religious law and asked, “Where is the Messiah supposed to be born?” 5 “In Bethlehem in Judea,” they said, “for this is what the prophet wrote: 6 ‘And you, O Bethlehem in the land of Judah, are not least among the ruling cities[c] of Judah, for a ruler will come from you who will be the shepherd for my people Israel.’” 7 Then Herod called for a private meeting with the wise men, and he learned from them the time when the star first appeared. 8 Then he told them, “Go to Bethlehem and search carefully for the child. And when you find him, come back and tell me so that I can go and worship him, too!” – Matthew 2:3-8

Now, in case you don’t know, Herod didn’t really want to worship this King of Kings—he wanted to kill him. King Herod was a mad man. 1st Century historian Josephus wrote:

“Herod was a violent and bold man, and very desirous of acting tyrannically…a man of great barbarity towards all men equally and a slave to his passions.”

A later writer labeled Herod the “evil genius” of the Jews. Herod murdered many people, including his own 2 sons for fear they would take his throne, so Herod’s plan was to flush out this Messiah King by means of these Maji and kill him.

The Maji come to Jerusalem, and they must have been important to get a meeting with Herod, but they don’t know exactly where to go. He just knew Messiah was called King of the Jews, so Herod asks the religious scholars who tell him “Oh, Micah the prophet and others said he’d be born in Bethlehem.” So the wise men go to Bethlehem and find Jesus.

10 When they saw the star, they were filled with joy! 11 They entered the house and saw the child with his mother, Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasure chests and gave him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.12 When it was time to leave, they returned to their own country by another route, for God had warned them in a dream not to return to Herod.13 After the wise men were gone, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream. “Get up! Flee to Egypt with the child and his mother,” the angel said. “Stay there until I tell you to return, because Herod is going to search for the child to kill him.”14 That night Joseph left for Egypt with the child and Mary, his mother, 15 and they stayed there until Herod’s death. This fulfilled what the Lord had spoken through the prophet: “I called my Son out of Egypt.” 16 Herod was furious when he realized that the wise men had outwitted him. He sent soldiers to kill all the boys in and around Bethlehem who were two years old and under, based on the wise men’s report of the star’s first appearance. – Matthew 2:10-16

So Jesus was born in Bethlehem, and apparently, Joseph just set up shop and started doing carpentry there in his hometown. When Jesus was between 1 and 2 years old, Herod had all the baby boys under 2 murdered, but Jesus’ family fled to Egypt and lived there 1 or 2 years as refugees until Herod died, then they moved back to Nazareth.

Did you ever think about that? The Christmas story is about a refugee child, named Jesus! Who had to run for his life from an evil tyrant, live as a foreigner, just as the Israelites had to live as foreigners in Egypt in the days of Moses.

Why does God so identify with the foreigner and refugee?

Because they are people created by God, for God, bearing His image—and all God did through Christ was for them just as much as for you and me—but they are uniquely vulnerable due to the evils of this world. And God knows, in that vulnerability evil can drive them to evil, or His church and His people can turn them toward the love of God by demonstrating it.

God makes it very clear over and over again in Scripture—His people are to care for the widow, the orphan, and the refugee (the foreigner living among us). I showed you some of the passages last week, let me show you some more, just in case you don’t believe how important this is to God:

The foreigner residing among you must be treated as your native-born. Love them as yourself.” – Leviticus 19:34

We are to treat them as equal citizens and love them as much as we love ourselves. When the church does this—it’s powerful.

He ensures that orphans and widows receive justice. He shows love to the foreigners living among you and gives them food and clothing. 19 So you, too, must show love to foreigners. – Deuteronomy 10:18-19 

Have you done that? Have you shown love to foreigners living among you—offering food or clothing or care or justice?

The Lord protects the foreigners among us. He cares for the orphans and widows. – Psalm 146:9

And centuries later, when God’s people neglected and mistreated the foreigners, that was one of the reasons God was so upset with them:

Foreigners are forced to pay for protection. Orphans and widows are wronged and oppressed among you… Even common people oppress the poor, rob the needy, and deprive foreigners of justice. I looked for someone who might rebuild the wall of righteousness that guards the land. I searched for someone to stand in the gap…but I found no one. – Ezekiel 22:6-7, 29-30 

God looks for those who will stand in the gap—who will care for the oppressed, the poor, the needy the refugee foreigner—when He looks at us, will He find us as people who will stand in the gap? Who will act, who will care, who will do something about the struggles of refugees among us?

God commanded his people to give a special tithe every 3 years just for the needs of the refugees foreigners and the marginalized among them.

“Every third year you must offer a special tithe of your crops. In this year of the special tithe you must give your tithes to the Levites, foreigners, orphans, and widows, so that they will have enough to eat in your towns.” -Deuteronomy 26:12

We take 10% of every dollar all year long to go to helping people in need and starting new churches, but this year at year end, we’re taking everything that’s given above our normal budget to give to this Refugee Crisis through our partners.

For more ways to give and serve, go to:

www.gatewaychurch.com/refugees

 

 

 

Comments
  • Naomi Grether

    🙂 – I love it. Anti – foreigner sentiment from Christians gets so upsetting/ I glad to mostly b e around Christians who believe the Bible – Welcome for those who are not a European heritage Americanized Christian per se / but a Saviour for the Whole World/ In Heaven – glad for eternal Hope ( as a Democrat / it does seem that is more necessary now than ever)

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