Jesus was a refugee

My wife, Nay, fled the Khmer Rouge 35 years ago when she was a little girl.

Her father had already been killed by the murderous regime there, and her young mother managed to escape with two young children in tow through the Cambodian jungle.

They cheated death with every step as they avoided landmines and eventually made it to a Thai refugee camp.

In time, they were sponsored to New Zealand.

The thing is, I didn’t know that six-year-old refugee would become my wife.

I didn’t know my mother-in-law and other folks who would become beloved extended family were suffering as refugees.

If I had known, would I have done more?

Would I have spoken out against anti-refugee rhetoric more strongly?

Would I have made sure refugees were welcomed in New Zealand and their needs were well met?

Of course I would have. (And I am grateful that my parents were actively involved in sponsoring and caring for refugees throughout my childhood.)

There is something profoundly important about the fact that God’s own son walked this earth as an undocumented child refugee.

This was no accident.

It was part of the plan all along.

He could have been born and lived as a prince, a wealthy landowner, or the Chief Priest.

Instead, He chose to become a refugee. Take a look at these words from Matthew 2:13-15:

Now after they had left, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, “Get up, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you; for Herod is about to search for the child, to destroy him.” Then Joseph got up, took the child and his mother by night, and went to Egypt, and remained there until the death of Herod.

God’s heart is very much for the refugee.

His own Son was a refugee. Jesus even reiterated that point, saying, “I was a stranger and you welcomed me in.”

Whatever you do for refugees, you do for Him. He calls them his “little brothers” as a reminder that those who suffer are to be considered family (Matthew 25:40).

How, then, should you and I respond, practically speaking, to what seems like an overwhelming refugee crisis?

There are four ways, I think, that would be biblical, Christ-like responses to the humanitarian crisis that is currently unfolding. Continue reading

  • Craig Greenfield is the director of Alongsiders International. He blogs at

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