God’s Special Concern for the Foreigner and the Refugee

Why spend so much time working with foreigners and refugees? At the heart of our organization is a deep care for these people — But why?

Put simply: because the same deep care is found in the heart of God.

God’s Character

One of the core characteristics of God is a special concern for the foreigner, which is elucidated throughout the whole of scripture, from the Old Testament through to the New Testament. It would be quite impossible to read through the Bible without picking up on one of the central aspects of the Christian & Jewish faith: caring for the foreigner. From early on in the Torah, we get glimpses into the character of God as it relates to the foreigner. In the following passage from Deuteronomy 10, it starts out by describing how Great and Mighty the Lord is, and directly following this description, showing its clear importance, is the description of a God who loves the foreigner.

17 “For the Lord your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great God, mighty and awesome, who shows no partiality and accepts no bribes. 18 He defends the cause of the fatherless and the widow, and loves the foreigner residing among you, giving them food and clothing. 19 And you are to love those who are foreigners, for you yourselves were foreigners in Egypt.”  (Deuteronomy 10:17-19)

It seems as if God’s love for the foreigner is one of the first descriptions of God’s greatness. Even when it is uncomfortable, God’s kingdom is always one that flips the common consciousness upside down and pushes us to be more loving, more accepting, and quicker to serve others (regardless of who they are). As Jesus points out to us, the one who is servant of all is great in the Kingdom of God and the one who is last truly is the one who is first (Matthew 18).

In the Deuteronomy passage above, not only do we discover that God personally loves the foreigner, but we ourselves are brought into this love as we are commanded to love the foreigner as well. Just like a parent would tell you to love your sibling because you are related by blood, so God is telling us to love our siblings. Are we not all brothers and sisters in God’s Kingdom? It seems God is telling us so!

God’s Law

As we saw in the last passage, because God loves the foreigner, there are implications for us, and these are reflected in the early Jewish laws. For two examples, let us look at Leviticus 19:

“‘When you reap the harvest of your land, do not reap to the very edges of your field or gather the gleanings of your harvest. Do not go over your vineyard a second time or pick up the grapes that have fallen. Leave them for the poor and the foreigner. I am the Lord your God.’” (Leviticus 19:9-10)

“‘When a foreigner resides among you in your land, do not mistreat them. The foreigner residing among you must be treated as your native-born. Love them as yourself, for you were foreigners in Egypt. I am the Lord your God.’” (Leviticus 19:33-34)

Here we see just two of many examples where caring and providing for the poor and the foreigner are incorporated early on into Judeo-Christian tradition through God’s law.

Old Testament Prophets

In the prophetic literature of the Old Testament, we see that God is not pleased with the nation that Israel turned into and He speaks through His prophets to let Israel know. One of the main criticisms spoken through the prophets was Israel’s lack of concern for the poor, the foreigner, and the refugee.

“‘So I will come to put you on trial. I will be quick to testify against sorcerers, adulterers and perjurers, against those who defraud laborers of their wages, who oppress the widows and the fatherless, and deprive the foreigners among you of justice, but do not fear me,’ says the Lord Almighty.” (Malachi 3:5)

“If you really change your ways and your actions and deal with each other justly, if you do not oppress the foreigner, the fatherless or the widow and do not shed innocent blood in this place, and if you do not follow other gods to your own harm, then I will let you live in this place, in the land I gave your ancestors for ever and ever.” (Jeremiah 7:5-7)

“Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen: to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke? Is it not to share your food with the hungry and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter — when you see the naked, to clothe them, and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?” (Isaiah 58:6-7)

A list of similar verses could roll on like a scroll expounding upon this common theme from the prophets, who paved the way for the ultimate prophet, Jesus, who was to carry on and exemplify this very same theme.  

Jesus tells us what is important

We all know Jesus’ great command to love your neighbor as yourself and Saint Paul goes on to say in Galatians 5, that the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this command. This naturally begs the question who is my neighbor, which Jesus answers in the parable of the good Samaritan. In the famous parable Jesus uses two enemies who would have been seen as foreigners, a Jew and a Samaritan, and he uses these two people to illustrate who is considered a neighbor. The neighbor is the foreigner (commonly viewed as an enemy) who goes out of his way, risking his own life and giving of his own finances, to help his enemy (another foreigner).

In a different parable, Jesus shows us that the way to eternal communion with God is through loving the people that the world considers “the least”.

“Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’” (Matthew 25: 34-36)

“Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’ The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’” (Matthew 25: 37-40)

In this parable we see the King representing Jesus in Heaven and telling the people to take their inheritance because they cared for the people who were hungry, thirsty, sick, prisoners, naked, strange, different or foreign. By caring for these people, Jesus says that we are directly loving and caring for God! That is a powerful and important passage for anyone who wants to meet God face-to-face.

God is calling our organization and YOU to care for the “least of these”

God has put it on the heart of our organization to love and serve foreigners and refugees and we are honored to be able to be just one avenue through which God pours out His love on the Global Church. This is why we work so extensively with international students in the United States, foreigners in their home countries, and refugees around the world.

This calling is not just for us, but for everyone! If you are interested in finding out how to serve with Horizons, refer to this webpage, or feel free to send us a message at connect@horizonsinternational.org.