Like many of you, the situation in the Ukraine has been on my mind this past month. My ancestry has a connection to Ukraine, with my dad’s side of the family immigrating to the U.S. from there. They were originally from Germany but came to settle in the Volga River region to farm. Over time, some of them left for the United States. The ones who remained eventually found themselves in Stalin’s labor camps where they starved to death alongside millions of other ethnic minorities.
In times like this, it is easy to feel helpless as you watch the suffering. While most of us can do little to stop the fighting around the world, we can learn how to make a difference from my ancestor’s experience and the Bible. My dad has copies of letters sent to our family in the U.S. begging for help fleeing the country.
Helping refugees is a central idea in the Bible (many translations use the term sojourner which encompasses refugees and other immigrants.) Some famous characters in the Bible who were refugees at some point from violence, famine, etc. include: Moses (Ex. 2:11-25), David (1 Sam. 19), Ruth (Ruth 1:1-7), and even Jesus (Matt. 2:13-18).
God exhorted Israel to treat “the stranger who sojourns with you as the native among you,” because “you were strangers in the land of Egypt.” This line of thinking is repeated often in the Bible (Ex. 23:9; 22:21; Lev. 19:33-34; Deut. 10:19). This practice is so important to the people of God because we are all people who live as victims of violence and sin on earth, waiting to be delivered at the second coming. We will enter Heaven as refugees from a sin-stricken world. How we view and treat refugees reflects on our understanding of God’s character and how He views us.
If you are feeling helpless and frustrated during times of war and unrest—whether it be in Ukraine, Yemen, Central African Republic, or elsewhere—perhaps God is calling you to lend your support to organizations like ADRA or others who are following God’s call to care for the refugee.
by Ben Kreiter, Bible Curriculum Specialist