All of us long for safety and refuge. Ultimately this is found only in God, who welcomes the strangers and gives them refuge. As we seek to become more Christlike, we too are called to create places of refuge and welcome for those who are in danger or need. Dina Nayeri writes of her own experience as a refugee in the United States: “It is the obligation of every person born in a safer room to open the door when someone in danger knocks.”
Hebrews 13:2 instructs Jesus’ followers to show hospitality to strangers. “The Greek word for hospitality is ‘philoxenos.’ It means love for the stranger and was recognized as a primary characteristic of the early followers of Christ. The mandate was, is, and remains clear: to live lives of inclusive hospitality, to recognize that Christ comes to us in the form of the stranger, and to be one with the prisoners, the persecuted, the undocumented, the refugee, the migrant, the immigrant, the stranger” (The Bible as the Ultimate Immigration Handbook, p. 15). Philoxenos—love for the stranger—is in stark contrast to another word with the same root, “xenos.” Xenophobia is fear of the stranger. As Christians, we are instructed to turn away from fearing the stranger and toward loving the stranger.
The reference in Hebrews to unknowingly entertaining angels may refer to the story in Genesis 18. Abraham, cited in Hebrews 11 as an example of faith, ran to three strangers who appeared and welcomed them into his household. As is customary in Middle East hospitality, he provided a generous meal to them.
Elsewhere in Genesis 18 we learn that it was the LORD who had appeared as a stranger.
Immigrants and refugees also enrich our communities in many ways. They revive struggling towns, fill worker shortages and open small businesses. It is not a zero-sum game. Asylum seekers don’t “win” safe refuge at a cost to the rest of us. We all win, building stronger and more prosperous communities together.
–From “Sermon ideas” in Safe Home, Safe Refuge: Worship resources.
Encourage your congregation to set aside a special Sunday to pray and advocate for migrants, particularly those who are seeking safe refuge in the U.S. The materials in this guide are intended to provide a starting point for worship leaders and pastors as they plan their congregation’s worship.