When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on the throne of his glory. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats, and he will put the sheep at his right hand and the goats at the left. Then the king will say to those at his right hand, “Come, you that are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.” Then the righteous will answer him, “Lord, when was it that we saw you … a stranger and welcomed you …?” And the king will answer them, “Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family,* you did it to me.”
- Matthew 25:31-40 New Revised Standard Version
Earlier this week, militant Taliban fighters detonated several bombs in Peshawar, a major city in northern Pakistan not far from the hotly contested Swat Valley, and in Lahore, killing scores and injuring many others.
Taliban warnings were issued telling people to evacuate many cities because other major terrorism was planned.
Almost immediately, the attacks and warnings created a flow of about two million refugees trying to escape with their lives and some of their possessions.
They are seeking safety somewhere, but precisely where is not always clear.
Their story is as old as the history of civilization, and although many people in the democratic Western nations are prone to believe that these things happen only in exotic, dangerous, distant and distinctly differing culture places like Pakistan and Afghanistan, the plight of refugees is woven into every history.
In Judeo-Christian history the story of the Exodus is a story of refugees seeking a promised place.
The New Testament story begins chronologically with Joseph and Mary’s refugee “Flight into Egypt” to escape the slaughter of male children ordered by the puppet king, Herod, fearful that the messiah had been born and would overthrow him.
In our time we call such acts the politics of power.
Knowing the history of the Roman Empire and the Middle East in the time of the Christ, it’s easy to understand why hospitality, even at great risk, was a virtue highly valued.
“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,” Jesus said in Matthew 25:35.
Centuries earlier, the same tradition is seen in words from Job 31-32, “The alien has not lodged outside, For I have opened my doors to the traveler.”
Also, in Isaiah 58:7, “Is it not to divide your bread with the hungry and bring the homeless poor into the house; When you see the naked, to cover him; And not to hide yourself from your own flesh?”
No culture, including our own, can claim innocence in creating refugees. Remember the Native Americans, displaced by white Europeans who all but stole their homelands.
The care of refugees of course cuts across a broad swath of religious action and humanitarian work, and most of the world community supports those acts of compassion and assistance.
Situations around the world demand our continuing attention, usually as a faith response, and always as the right, best thing to do because mercy, compassion, generosity and self-sacrifice are universally valued as the best expression of enlightened people.
NEMS Daily Journal