To those who live as refugees…chosen…to be obedient… I Peter 1:1-2
As Christians settled safely in the West, we can be tempted to rank the three underlined words in Peter’s letter. We love that we’ve been chosen. We understand that we’ve been chosen to be obedient.
But it’s that first underlined word—refugees, translated often as exiles or sojourners—that stops me this Advent Sunday. Have you looked recently at pictures of refugees? Stop right now and type “refugee pictures” in your computer’s search engine, then look long and thoughtfully at what you see. When I did that, I saw people laden with their world’s goods tied up in sheets and blankets, one man carrying a rolled carpet on his shoulders, children bent over hauling family commodities, an obviously pregnant woman faltering under her load.
No brightly lit Christmas trees in a refugee camp. Gifts, if any, will come from compassionate NGOs or Christian relief agencies. No mortgage payments since houses are destroyed. No visits to grandparents unless they live in a nearby tent or under a tarp.
We’re chosen for obedience which includes seeing ourselves as God sees us: as refugees, people living away from the country they long for. And while understanding more about our own status, we look at refugees around the world and see God’s clear Law: The foreigners residing among you must be treated as native-born. Love them as yourself… (Leviticus 19:34). Foreigners today live next door. Loving them as myself may require removal of the mask of political ideologies, of economic practicalities. It may mean honest appraisal of how and from whom come my biases. It can mean admitting that grace always offers more. It may mean uncomfortably reaching out to a nearby refugee.