As Christians celebrate the birth of Christ, the dangerous situation he faced in his infancy should not be forgotten. According to the Gospel of Matthew, the new-born Jesus and his family fled from Bethlehem to Egypt to escape the wrath of King Herod of Judea. They were allowed to enter Egypt, where they lived in safety until Herod died.

Matthew’s recitation of events shows that Jesus and his family were refugees– forced to leave their home to escape danger or persecution. The Egyptians gave them refuge until the family felt it was safe to return. Thank God that the Egyptians did not refuse them asylum and turn them away. That is a wonderful object lesson, in and of itself.

Jesus went on to be a powerful advocate for the poor, downtrodden and oppressed. He spoke of our responsibility to love one another, including the “stranger.” In Matthew 25:31-46, Jesus made it clear that those who had treated strangers with kindness would inherit His kingdom. On the other hand, those who refused to take in strangers, feed the hungry, clothe the naked, and give drink to the thirsty would not.

These words were in keeping with a strong biblical tradition that preceded Christianity. Deuteronomy and Exodus are replete with verses admonishing the Jews to treat foreigners with kindness and compassion–Deuteronomy 27:19, “Cursed is anyone who withholds justice from the foreigner” and 10:19, “And you are to love those who are foreigners.”  Exodus 12:49, “The same law applies both to the native-born and to the foreigner residing among you” and 22:21, “Do not mistreat or oppress a foreigner, for you were foreigners in Egypt.”

Millions of people in that same region of the world are currently refugees, having fled their homes to escape persecution or certain death. This country obviously can’t take them all in but we can do a much better job of giving at least some of them sanctuary from the horrors that forced them to flee their countries. Yet, this year we will take in no more than 18,000 refugees, less than 20% of our historic average of 98,000 since 1975.

Idaho’s refugee resettlement program is regarded as a model for the rest of the nation. The Agency for New Americans and International Rescue Committee in Boise resettle about two-thirds of the Idaho-bound refugees, while the College of Southern Idaho takes care of the rest. Our refugee community is comprised of people who work hard, take care of their families, set up businesses, and contribute to the community.

Idahoans, particularly those who have had personal contact with refugees, are supportive of continuing the resettlement program in Idaho. Many in the faith community have led the effort to increase the dwindling number of refugees being admitted to the U.S. and Idaho.

Idahoans are pretty down-to-earth types who understand that we are all human beings and that we need to lend a hand to those who are suffering adversity.  We are reminded in our places of worship of our responsibility to come to the aid of distressed foreigners. That theme would not be woven within the fabric of both the Old and New Testaments if it were not an integral part of the religions that observe the words in those revered books. Of course, we also have the example of that most famous of refugees, who escaped the wrath of Herod due to the sanctuary granted by Egypt just over 2,000 years ago.

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  1. I always enjoy it when libs wad the Bible up and shove it up our nether regions. Read the Bible as much as one might, you wont find orders to allow your enemy into your home when you know he wants to kill you and your family. Using scripture out of context is a common ploy of the left.

    The real question is: Knowing that you can move to Minnesota (or S ID) right now and enjoy the conditions that you describe, why don’t you go there or any other lib state and enjoy the fruits? It is there for the taking!
    You write as though there have been no refugees allowed into the US. That is a false premise. We already have them raping kids in S Idaho.

    No, libs only want to dictate how others must live, imposing THEIR will over the majority of common sense people. (It’s the abortion argument in reverse.) I guess you won’t be happy until every community has settlers that hate us.

    You, Shelby and the whole hee haw gang down at Sandpoint City Hall should each sign a 5 year commitment to host and support a Syrian family in your homes. Until then, you are hiding behind the rhetoric and are all talk.

    Seriously, if you want it so badly, do it. Just keep your hand out of my wallet and the camels out of my yard. I suspect that you are more comfortable writing than doing.

    1. Thanks for sharing your opinion, Ideehoboy. I was interested in your reading of the Bible. Can you point to any verses that contradict or qualify the verses I quoted in my column? I am unaware of any direct quotes from Jesus that would indicate we should mistreat foreigners, whether they be visitors, refugees or immigrants.

      I think you start out with the mistaken premise that refugees are our enemies. They certainly are not. Just like every other child of God, they are not perfect. However, statistics show that they commit criminal offenses at half the rate of homegrown Americans. They start businesses at twice the rate of citizens. I was pleased that Governor Little and the Twin Falls and Ada County Commissioners gave their consent to allow more refugees to be settled in Idaho this coming year. It is a recognition that refugee resettlement is a worthy program.

      Even assuming that we should consider refugees to be enemies, the Bible says they should not be mistreated. Romans 12:20 says, “If your enemy hungers, feed him; If he thirsts, give him drink; For in so doing you will heap coals of fire on his head.” The following verse says, “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” In confirmation class, the pastor said this mean that we would embarrass our enemies into shaping up if we treated them with kindness.

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