We know love by this, that he laid down his life for us—and we ought to lay down our lives for one another. How does God’s love abide in anyone who has the world’s goods and sees a brother or sister in need and yet refuses help? Little children, let us love, not in word or speech, but in truth and action.
1 John 3:16-18
This week the Lutheran Church observes Migrant and Refugee Sunday. The readings set down for this event include the lament of the Jewish people who found themselves refugees in Babylon and the account of Jesus, Mary and Joseph fleeing to Egypt as refugees to escape persecution from Herod.
One of my favourite verses is recorded above. God’s word makes it so clear for us. To paraphrase, “What kind of Christian has plenty but does not share with those in need? Words are not enough – Christians are people who act out the love of God!”
In our school community we have tangible reminders of the migrant and refugee. We have over 20 languages and countries of origin represented. We are a Lutheran school – a school that would not exist were it not for persecuted German migrants arriving in Australia seeking to educate their children in the faith. Outside of those of us with indigenous heritage, our families were all migrants to Australia at some stage.
As I listen to the news and popular opinion in Australia, I often wonder if many have forgotten that the vast majority of us were once newly arrived in this beautiful country. Our families once left homes and travelled significant distance in the hope of a new and better life. The news is a constant reminder that these journeys were not easy and were frequently dangerous. The gospel reading from Matthew tells us something that can easily be forgotten – our saviour, the very son of God, was a refugee forced to live in a foreign land.
The migrant, the refugee, the homeless, the stranger – these are our brothers and sisters who desperately need the support and reassurance of the Christian community. There is not one among us who has not found ourselves in strange lands and new situations. We might not have been a refugee, but we have all felt loneliness, despair, fear and have wondered what the future holds. It is at these times that we needed the support of our brothers and sisters most.
It is very easy for us to say that we welcome refugees and migrants. We can give a few dollars to a charity, sign an online petition or write a letter to our parliamentarians. These are all loving acts but amount only to words if we don’t take the next step. It doesn’t need to be big – invite the family who just moved into the neighbourhood over for dinner, encourage your children to seek out children sitting alone and play with them, say hello to the stranger sitting next to you on the bus stop. As we seek to live as a Christian community in Sunshine and surrounds, let us take God’s word seriously and support those who need it most.
May the Son of God, who experienced firsthand the struggles of being a stranger, refugee and migrant, grant us the courage, strength and hope, to share God’s love with all our brothers and sisters.