The essay that follows is a deviation from the usual form of these devotional works. It represents an attempt on my part to set out some of the thoughts that I have been having about the nature of humanity as God sees us. Although I do intend to continue to explore the topic of refugees for a few more days, I also plan to return to the usual form and structure for those works.

But as it is, they desire a better country, that is a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared for them a city.

Hebrews 11: 16

 

Definition of refugee

one that flees; especiallya person who flees to a foreign country or power to escape danger or persecution (Meriam-webster.com)

 

We are all refugees at one time or other and in some fashion or manner. No one seems to get through life without needing to flee from something, or at least, without the sense or feeling that this is necessary. Refuge is what we desire, and it is sometimes found. Most of the time, we keep on traveling, drifting, and shifting until our days are done. There are the exceptions to this, those who find a settled form of peace and contentment where they are, but for most of us, the road just continues on ahead without terminus or even a glimpse of that destination’s distant glow. Humanity began all of this tortured travel with the first people as they were sent out from the comfort of their intended home into the troubled landscape to the east.  We have not fully settled in since, and I am not so sure that there is really any place that can be permanently settled in this life until the world is reformed and reclaimed by Christ.

 

So, we are all off on the journey. Some of us are in situations that are far more desperate than are others; yet, sojourners and travelers are we all. The Syrian that has been driven out of a home that was theirs for uncountable generations and the Rohingyas whose national heritage is disputed by everyone in power in their corner of the world are trekking along a path that is closely related to the one that those of us who know nothing but comfort and plenty are also stepping along. I do not wish to make light of the dire and despicable situations that oppressive and evil people and forces have subjected the first of these groups of people to, but I do deliberately want to reflect on the fact that virtually all of us are involved in something of the same odyssey of fear, pain, discovery, and in the end, either hope or defeat.

 

The premise is simple. There is only one place of refuge, just a singular sanctuary city, that can be found by any who will enter into its walls. This is located in a spiritual realm and it operates with an economy that is founded upon faith rather than gold, silver, or precious jewels. We might delude ourselves into thinking that we have found that safe place or that secure fortress within the boundaries that are set out by nation, or leader, or wealth, or even by religion; but, all of these defenses will be breeched by the relentlessly destructive bent of the adversary, and every one of our human and earthly forms of sanctuary will be thrown aside by forces that come straight out of the darkened heart that breathes death and destruction on all who turn toward its mouth of doom.

 

As we set out on out along the personal refugee road that we have chosen or that has selected us, some of the boats that we choose to trust for escape are trustworthy, but others are headed to the bottom of the sea and only a brief period of time forestalls that disaster. On certain journeys, the food and water that were promised to be provided along the way are never there, and starvation and thirst win out over the continuation of life. So, on those days, the ocean or the desert win as they gain new permanent resident souls, and on others, personal strength overcomes and fortune shines upon the travelers. God tells us that there are other ways to be fed in the wilderness, and there are alternative routes that we can take in order to get to a place where the soul can dwell in the hope of eternity. This other course was set in place by way of promise even before those ancestors of ours were sent by God into the harsh terrain of their own design and choosing. When Eve and Adam passed the portal where the flaming sword demonstrated God’s no return policy, they set out along the perilous trail that all seekers of refuge are on.

 

We too live in times wherein we need to keep our bags packed and our loved ones close by. There is tension in the air and impermanence is the nature and the character of our world. Nations are fragile, government is untrustworthy as its leaders are too often liars and deceivers, economic might can collapse in a moment, and strength or power end upon a single misguided step. The Lord tells us to hold the things of this world lightly, to cherish what is eternal and to care about and for the things that He cares about. As Jesus depicted with great clarity, none of the things that God cares about come into being because of earthly power, station, or out of the exercise of might. They are all the sorts of things that can be carried in a light travel bag, and everything that we are to be concerned about was acquired and paid for by Jesus’ blood.

 

So, when we look upon those foreign faces that we reference as refugees, we are simply looking into a form of mirror that allows us to gaze into the unsettled state of our own souls. The language may sound strange and the customs are unfamiliar to our experience, but the heart, the desire for peace and for a place to dwell in security, and all of the rest of the person that is the living image of God, Himself, is present before our eyes. These are people who are to be embraced and cared for. These are lives that are precious to God and who should be held in the highest of regard by everyone. They are in the midst of their own part of the same great migration that I am on and that each of us travels. We are in this sojourn together in that we are all taking steps along a road that starts at birth and that seems to terminate at death but that actually continues into an eternity that exists beyond this world. So, as we encounter people from other places in our world we truly and actually are seeing another form of ourselves.

 

We can choose to embrace them and to share the burden of their journey or we can stand apart, untouched by their tears and the sweat of their trials, unmoved by the violence and the oppression that our world throws at them and that has shattered the sense of well-being that should be a basic right of all people. We can attempt to hold all others at a seemingly safe distance and even attempt to build walls of all sorts around our borders in order to safeguard our world, but this sort of self-guided protection will not be effective and there is nothing in it that is honoring to God and to His creation. God cares about people, and He sees each of us individually and loves every one of us equally. We are called upon by Him to do the same. There are no foreigners, no others, no strangers, and no refugees as separate categories or groups of people in our world. We are all refugees together as we travel from a place of unsettled life and unquiet spirit toward the promise and the hope of God’s redemption and its peace. In Christ we know its source and in God’s Kingdom we experience its dwelling place; so, let’s embrace all others as God’s own beloved co-travelers and invite them in to share the fellowship of our common heritage as God’s beloved children.

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