As you guys know I am new to faith and I am looking for a Podcast that can guide me through the bible the first time I read through it. If any of you readers have any suggestions for me please leave it in the comments section or email me. Thank you guys in advance.
What’s the first word you think of when you hear the word “stranger?”
For many, the answer is “danger.” Of course, there are good reasons that we warn small children not to trust those unknown to them, but sometimes even as adults—perhaps even as a society—our first reaction to those who are different than us is to suspect they could be a potential threat.
The Bible calls for a different approach to strangers. The Greek word for hospitality, philoxenia, literally means “the love of strangers.” We tend to think about hospitality as having our friends over for a meal—but so long as it is our friends whom we are entertaining, it is not genuine hospitality, at least in the original sense of the word.
The Bible never promises that all strangers are safe, but nevertheless we are commanded repeatedly to love them. When we do so, the book of Hebrews suggests, we may just be welcoming an angel without realizing it. Those whom some in our society presume to be a threat could actually be a blessing.
Another key biblical teaching about “strangers” is that, if we profess to follow Jesus, we are strangers. Paul, Peter, and the author of Hebrews all use the idea of immigration as a metaphor for what it means to be a Christian. Our primary identity—superseding our allegiance to our country, our city, our family, or any other entity—is as citizens of heaven, and that means that we ought never to fully “fit in” on earth.
While it is appropriate to be grateful for and loyal to our country, we must be careful never to conform fully to the culture around us, because our ultimate home is elsewhere. Refugees—who, even as they integrate into a new country, often carry in their hearts a longing for the country they were forced to leave behind—have much to teach us about what it means to follow Jesus, living and seeking the good of this land while always conscious of our true homeland.
1. How might the biblical command to hospitality—to love strangers—inform how you respond to refugees who arrive in your community?
2. If your first allegiance is to God’s kingdom above any country on earth, how might your views toward foreigners be different than those who are not Christians?
The Bible compares the global church to a single human body, with many distinct parts that are each important to the whole. When one part of that body suffers, Paul writes, every part suffers with it.
The horrific reality is that many of our brothers and sisters around the globe today are suffering as they are persecuted for the name of Jesus. At the hands of governments hostile to the Christian faith and, increasingly, non-state terrorists, Christ-followers have been martyred. In fact, Open Doors USA’s analysis suggests that 2015 may have been the most violent year for Christians in modern history.
To stand in solidarity with the persecuted church, we ought to do all we can to stop these horrific situations of persecution. Whenever possible, we should strive and pray for circumstances such that Christians would not be forced to leave. When they make the decision that fleeing is their only option, though, local churches in receiving countries also must do everything possible to welcome these refugees.
About 340,000 professing Christians of one tradition or another have been admitted into the United States as refugees between 2003 and 2015, more than of any other religious tradition. Many of them have been persecuted particularly because of their faith in Jesus.
Imagine that you were forced to flee your country because you insisted on following Jesus. Wouldn’t you hope that a Christian brother or sister in the country to which you fled would be there to welcome you, to help you adjust, and to lament with you what you had lost?
In the end, this is not just about standing with our brothers and sisters. It is about standing with Jesus Himself. Jesus takes personally the persecution of His church. When He confronted Saul, who had persecuted Christians, on the road to Damascus, He asked him, “Why do you persecute me?” He explained to His disciples that, at the final judgment, those who had fed, clothed, and welcomed “the least of these” brothers and sisters will learn they had done so to Jesus Himself.
1. Imagine that you were forced to flee your country because of your Christian faith—where would you go? What would you take with you? How would you hope to be received in the country in which you sought refuge?
2. What practical steps could you take to serve refugees who are persecuted for their faith?
Shortly before ascending into heaven, Jesus left His disciples with a final charge: to make disciples of all nations. As recorded in the book of Acts, Jesus clarifies that this command has both local and global implications: while the church can and must cross international borders, we also must live out the Great Commission in our own neighborhoods. The arrival of refugees into our communities presents a remarkable opportunity to live out the Great Commission.
That opportunity is not an accident: Scripture makes clear that God is sovereign over the moment of people towards an end: so that people whom He created and loves would find their way into relationship with Him. God has a sovereign purpose in the migration of people, and He invites His church to join Him in that work.
God is at work in multiple directions through the migration of refugees and other immigrants. On one hand, many of those who migrate are already strong believers, and they became powerful agents of mission, sharing the good news with those in their own ethnic communities and beyond.
Others, though, are not yet Christians. In fact, by one analysis, there are more unreached people groups present within the boundaries of the United States than in any other country besides India and China—and many of those individuals arrive as refugees. As we love, serve, and advocate with these refugees, we will often be asked what motivates us, and we can point people to the hope within us that comes from a transformative relationship with Jesus.
This opportunity underscores why it is so important to examine the realities of refugees and migration through a biblical lens. A recent survey from LifeWay Research suggests that most American evangelical Christians are missing this opportunity: only a minority said that the arrival of refugees or other immigrants presents “an opportunity to introduce them to Jesus Christ.”
Jesus said that the harvest is plentiful, but the workers few: there are many who do not yet know Jesus right within our communities, but too few of their neighbors ready to live out Jesus’ Great Commission locally.
1. When you think about the arrival of refugees, have you seen an opportunity? Why or why not?
2. How could you extend welcome and kindness to refugees in such a way that might open opportunities to share your faith?
The Bible has much to say about how to treat refugees, but it is also, in some sense, a story of refugees. Many heroes of the faith were themselves forced to flee persecution at one point or another, including Jacob, Moses, David, and Elijah. But there is no more important refugee than Jesus Himself.
Our nativity scenes and Christmas pageants usually include the gift-bearing magi, but often stop the story there, just before Jesus, Mary, and Joseph were forced as refugees to flee the tyrannical government of King Herod. The biblical text provides few details about how Jesus, Mary, and Joseph were treated once they arrived in Egypt. We can only speculate: Were they able to find shelter? Were they welcomed, or harassed? Did local carpenters gripe that Joseph was driving down their wages? Was Jesus suspected of carrying disease?
Having begun His earthly life on the margins, throughout His ministry Jesus demonstrates concern for the marginalized, such as the Samaritans. Samaritans were not “good” in the minds of the average Jewish listener: they were considered heretical foreigners. At one point, some of Jesus’ disciples actually suggested calling down fire on a Samaritan village, an idea Jesus promptly rejected.
Jesus’ approach to these marginalized foreigners was countercultural: he “had to go through Samaria,” even though there were other, less direct routes that some Jews may have preferred in order to avoid contact with Samaritans. When He does, He interacts compassionately with a Samaritan woman, revealing Himself to her as the Messiah and equipping her to be among the first evangelists. Elsewhere, when a Samaritan is the only one of ten lepers who returns after being healed, Jesus praises a Samaritan as a model of gratitude.
Most notably, Jesus presented a Samaritan as the model of neighborly love. In one of His most well-known parables, this “Good Samaritan” sees a vulnerable traveler beaten on the side of the road and has compassion on him. Jesus command us to “go and do likewise.” That there may be risk or cost involved—as there certainly was for this Samaritan—is not relevant to the mandate to love.
1. How do you think Jesus’ experience as a refugee might have informed his own ministry to those on the margins?
2. Who are the vulnerable neighbors whom Jesus might be calling you to love?
When the Old Testament talks about God’s justice, it often does so by highlighting His particular concern for those most vulnerable to injustice. Three particular groups are highlighted repeatedly: the widow, the orphan, and the foreigner (or, in different English translations, the stranger, alien, sojourner, or immigrant).
Not only does God love and provide for these vulnerable groups of people, He also commands His people to do the same. As we saw yesterday, God even instilled policies to ensure that these vulnerable groups has the means to provide for basic needs such as food.
Later, God sent prophets to rebuke those who had failed to protect these vulnerable groups. Jeremiah and Malachi warn of God’s judgment for those who failed to keep these commands, listing mistreatment of the orphan, widow, and foreigner alongside sins such as adultery, sorcery, lying, and shedding innocent blood.
The Bible also takes these three groups—widows, orphans, and foreigners—as metaphors for how God rescues each of us in the midst of our vulnerability. The Prophet Isaiah compares God to a husband, redeeming a widow. In Galatians, Paul describes our salvation in Jesus as a process of being adopted as God’s children. In his letter to the Ephesians, Paul writes that those of us who are Gentiles were once strangers and aliens to God’s covenant with the Jewish people, but that by Christ’s death, we can be naturalized in as citizens of God’s kingdom, reconciled to Him and also to one another.
God deeply loves the vulnerable—and, at least in a spiritual sense, that includes all of us.
1. How could you practically serve and reflect God’s love toward those who are vulnerable in your community?
2. How might recognizing your own vulnerability—and God’s grace in redeeming us in the midst of it—inform how you respond to those who are vulnerable as widows, orphans, or foreigners in our society and around the globe?
As God’s people, the Israelites, were finally about to enter the Promised Land after years of wandering in the desert, God reiterated a warning he made shortly after they had first fled from Egypt a generation earlier: once you’re settled in your new land, you must not forget your history. Remember that you(or your ancestors) were foreigners in Egypt, mistreated by Pharaoh, and that it was my grace—not merely your own efforts—that brought you from that place of desperation to where you are now, to this land “flowing with milk and honey.” Because, if you do forget, you may turn to the foreigners who seek refuge in your new land and treat them just as terribly as Pharaoh treated you.
How many of us have stories in our families that are similar? In the United States, for example, nearly everyone can trace their lineage back to somewhere else, whether those ancestors came on the Mayflower or a slave ship, through Ellis Island in New York Harbor, across a border, or through an airport. Most Americans have at least a basic awareness of their ancestral origins, often maintaining some cultural traditions or family recipes.
Too often, though, we’ve forgotten precisely what God warned the Israelites not to forget: the challenges and mistreatment that many newly arrived immigrants faced, such as the “No Irish Need Apply” signs of the mid-19thcentury. Most are likely unaware of the violence and legalized discrimination against Chinese immigrants that culminated in the federal Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882, legally prohibiting all Chinese immigrants for more than a half century. We tend to forget the resentment faced by the Southern and Eastern European refugees and other immigrants who came in through Ellis Island around the turn of the 20th century, or Benjamin Franklin’s incredulity that the Germans arriving in colonial Pennsylvania could ever assimilate.
The lesson of the Israelites is to remember our history—not so that we can treat those who come after us just as badly as our ancestors were treated, but so that we can do better, responding with the love and welcome with which we would want to be received.
1. Are there refugees or other immigrants in your family history? Do you know what their experience was as newcomers?
2. How might remembering your family history inform how you respond to those arriving as newcomers today?