What Does the Bible Say About the Refugee Crisis?


This is a good question, but it is by no means a simplistic one. What does the Bible say about the refugee crisis? Well, it’s complicated.

Sarah McCammon from NPR covered a story entitled, “What Does the Bible Say About Refugees? Depends Who You Ask.” In this piece, she mentions how divided evangelical Christians are on this moral question.

One of the things that surprised me about McCammon’s take on this issue was how familiar the argument went. A majority of evangelicals and conservatives in the U.S. are in favor of bringing over more refugees, but there is little to no discussion over what to do with refugees once they are here.

This conversation sounds familiar, doesn’t it?

The same majority group is in favor of saving the unborn and also views abortion as a great evil. I agree, but I do find it interesting (and inconsistent) when we urge for a moral good and then don’t follow through with it—all the way.

If we are pro-life, we should not only be in favor of preventing or stopping abortions, we should also be in favor of adoption—not just the “idea” of it (for example, "I really think that it's good for you to adopt, but I could never do that.")—but Christians ought to put this idea into practice. Otherwise, we are not truly pro-life.

Back to the issue at hand. If we are going to welcome thousands of refugees from Syria or anywhere else, then we would also need to consider ways in which we can open up our own homes—or come together to pay for housing for some of them—as Christians. Something like this would seem to be the consistent (and moral) position for those who are advocates.

The Bible doesn’t have anything to say about the specific refugee crisis that we face. I do not mean that it has nothing to say about loving our neighbors. The Bible clearly teaches love for neighbor that especially applies to the marginalized in any and every society (foreigners and orphans and widows and even Samaritans are among those whom we should care for, so it's no stretch to include Syrian refugees!). See: Exodus 23:9, Leviticus 19:33-34, Ezekiel 16:49, Matthew 25:25-36, or Luke 10:29-37, for examples. 

Here is what I do mean though. As soon as we argue that loving our neighbor requires such action—we could just as easily argue that putting our current neighbors into harms way for the sake of inviting others into our country is unloving. To love our current neighbors, we must protect them from unnecessary threats of violence.

In either case, appealing to the Golden Rule does nothing to resolve the starting question. So what does the Bible say about the refugee crisis? Like I said, it’s complicated.


Nicholas Davis

Rev. Nicholas Davis is a minister in the Presbyterian Church in America.

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