I’ve said it for years…
…He, too, had been a refugee.
I remember when I first thought about this, I was overwhelmed.
His words to the meek and to those who find themselves in last place, were not just comforting, but words from the lips and heart of a man who had experienced displacement due to political persecution while just a baby. We are not sure how old he was when his family fled the realm of their maniacal ruler. Most likely not older than two. I don’t think that he would have remembered the drama when his father was warned and then departed with his young family to another country. But he probably remembered growing up in exile. You see, he, too, had been a refugee.
When he was an adult, he became a teacher. Once he said to his students that they needed to be ready to flee when danger comes. In his words, he spoke of how difficult it would be for pregnant and nursing mothers to be on the run. I’ve often thought of how his own mother probably told him how challenging it had been for her when she had traveled while pregnant, gave birth far from home, and later had fled political persecution with a nursing baby. He, too, had been a refugee.
While I was still in high school, my church did an awesome thing: they helped a Vietnamese “boat” family relocate in our home town. My girlfriend and I were part of the entourage who welcomed the family at the airport. They were two brothers and a sister. My girlfriend and I later married, but it was early in our relationship that God enabled us to cross paths with a family that needed help (we are thankful that we’ve been able to meet other families in challenging situations). Those three Vietnamese were later joined by three more from their family. We used to meet with them at least once, weekly, just to visit. It was our first cross-cultural experience together. At that time, I was touched to think of how Jesus, himself, had been a refugee, like these people.
A friend of mine in Almaty, Kazakhstan, told me that her family had to flee, twice, to Tashkent, Uzbekistan, in the 1950s and 60s because of political persecution. She knew what living in exile was like and it colored her life. Once while my friend was sharing a sad memory, I mentioned that Jesus, too, had been a refugee.
In the last four years, I have come into contact with several refugees. These have come from different countries, and in every case, they have fled religious extremism. I’ve told them, as well, that Jesus, too, had been a refugee.
And to all of us who have not known what it is like to have our dignity stripped, and our hope crushed while we wonder if we will be alive tomorrow, if we will be safe tomorrow, if we will be able to rest and stop fleeing…to us, I want us to remember that Jesus, too, had been a refugee. And when we see the news about refugees drowning remember that many have been raped, brutalized, starved, extorted, lied to and attacked, and that has been since they have been on the run from governments and terrorists who have shown them injustice because of their age, gender, religion or political stance.
When I consider my own history, I know that part of my family tree includes the French Huguenots. The Huguenots were Reformed Protestants who had suffered Roman Catholicism France. The majority were killed, but about 500,000 fled France to a dozen or more other countries, including the Virginia Colony.
My ancestors, too, had been refugees. My Savior, too, had been a refugee.
I am thankful that my ancestors were welcomed to this land and became productive members of American society.
I wonder if those who welcomed my family to America realized that Jesus, too, had been a refugee.
I don’t want us to forget this.