Hi, it’s John here bringing you Will’s words.
That’s Will Sutcliffe from Beacon https://beaconbradford.org/ and City of Sanctuary https://bradford.cityofsanctuary.org/ ok, and a bit of Abigail Housing https://www.abigailhousing.org.uk/ too.
We’re taught that the Bible is the living word of God. Isn’t it amazing that we can read it all our lives and still discover things that we have never noticed before? I love speaking with believers in their 80’s and 90’s who have read the bible their whole lives and have never exhausted its meaning for their lives.
I’d been a Christian for over 25 years before I discovered a theme that runs clearly and consistently throughout the Old and New Testaments* but had never spotted before. It’s the command to love, welcome, care for and advocate on behalf of ‘the alien’ – no, not ET or some 3-eyed creature from Zog, but those who have been forced to leave their own lands and seek safety in another. Or, in modern speak, the refugee. Leviticus 19:33-34 says:
“When an alien lives with you in your land, do not ill-treat him. The alien living with you must be treated as one of your native-born. Love him as yourself for you were aliens in Egypt. I am the Lord your God”.
It deeply troubles me when I hear people (and certain groups) talking about keeping migrants out of “our” country, as though we had earned the right to be born here and claim it as our own. I don’t know about you, but I had no part in the decision. If we were fortunate enough to be born in a free, democratic and prosperous country, we are immensely privileged.
So many key figures in the Bible were refugees – they had to leave their land, usually in crisis, and settle in a strange country: Abraham, Joseph, Moses, Daniel ….. Jesus. How differently might history have developed, had Mary, Joseph and the infant Jesus been turned away at the Egyptian border?
I’ve been very encouraged over recent years to see churches across our city and the UK responding to the challenge to ‘welcome the stranger’. I wonder sometimes though if we find it easier to be in the position of giving, rather than listening to what God may be saying to us through those who have come to join us and recognizing their giftings? Hebrews 13:2,3 says “Do not forget to entertain strangers, for by so doing some people have entertained angels without knowing it”.
So many who have come as refugees to the UK have proved to be ‘angels’ – bringing great blessings to our churches, communities, culture and economy. I believe that they also bring a prophetic voice to us. It was only through the extreme persecution of the early church that forced the believers to leave Jerusalem and take the Good News to Judea, Samaria and, in time, the rest of the world (see Acts 8:1ff). Could God, in His redeeming power, be bringing people to the UK to speak His truth to us? Faith that is tested grows stronger; by remaining faithful to God through severe persecution and deprivation, many asylum seekers and refugees have found a faith that makes mine seem pretty small. We need to listen to them.
On a separate but related note, so much has been said and shared online in the past few weeks since the tragic murder of George Floyd. I found this one of the most challenging:
Thank you Zephaniah for your wonderful Refugee Voices project that, over the years, has brought home to thousands of children and adults the lived experiences of the ‘aliens’ amongst us.
* Do contact Will (firstname.lastname@example.org ) if you’d like him to send you a list of some amazing verses. Likewise if you’re interested in finding out more about some of Bradford’s brilliant asylum support projects.
Thank you Will for today’s session and for all that you in our city. Go Zephteam into the world and be encouraged, be challenged, be thankful and be welcoming. aliens or not …