United Methodist Committee on Relief

Foundational To Mission

By Christie R. House*

For the Lord your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great God, mighty and awesome, who is not partial and takes no bribe, who executes justice for the orphan and the widow, and who loves the strangers, providing them food and clothing. You shall also love the stranger, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt.

Deuteronomy 10:17-19 (NRSV)

The above quote from Deuteronomy is close to the quote from Exodus 23:9 “You shall not oppress a resident alien; you know the heart of an alien, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt. It’s also similar to Leviticus 19:33-34. The themes of fairness, kindness, and justice for strangers and aliens in the land are repeated in the Psalms, and in Matthew, and Ephesians, and Hebrews, among other books of the Bible. 

germany_2015_jeffrey_messstetten_118.JPGA Syrian refugee couple walks through the countryside near Messstetten, Germany. They have applied for asylum in Germany and are awaiting word on the government’s decision. Meanwhile, they live in a room in a former army barracks in Messstetten. PHOTO: PAUL JEFFREY   

Remaining open to strangers and people outside a tight ethnic community, being kind to people who are culturally or ethnically different, and judging resident aliens by the same standards and laws available to citizens were tough lessons that had to be oft-repeated in scripture. Left on our own, we seem bound to forget these foundational tenets of our faith and of Judeo-Christian community.

Jesus and the disciples did a lot of walking—it was the main mode of transportation for people of their status and station in life. They walked along the Sea of Galilee, up mountains, down valleys, along roads to Capernaum, Gadarenes, Tyre and Sidon, Nazareth, Gennesaret, Jerusalem—Jesus even walked on water. He met all kinds of people in different situations along his way and connected with them as he went. Even after his death and resurrection, he was still meeting and walking with people—on the road to Emmaus. His ministry was, and is, one of accompaniment.

greece_2015_jeffrey_lesbos_1102-396.JPGRefugees assist each other as they leave a beach near Molyvos, on the Greek island of Lesbos. They arrived on the beach in a boat from Turkey via traffickers. They were received by local and international volunteers, then proceeded on their way toward western Europe.                                    PHOTO: PAUL JEFFREY 

As followers of Jesus, we are also called to accompany people along their life journeys—those we love, those we meet, and those who are sometimes strangers. Through the reach of our connectional United Methodist Church, we can engage in this mission in many ways—welcoming refugees in our own communities; supporting missionaries and congregations who work with migrant populations; helping UMCOR provide grants and service to partnership organizations that work directly with refugee populations; helping those displaced by natural disasters; advocating for reform and justice in our nation’s immigration policies. Any one of these avenues is a good place to start a journey of accompaniment.

*Christie R. House is the editor of New World Outlook magazine. This editorial appeared in the Summer 2017 issue of the magazine. Used online by permission.