by Rev. Dustin Bartlett
January 28, 2017
God is our refuge and strength,
an ever-present help in trouble.
Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way
and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea,
though its waters roar and foam
and the mountains quake with their surging.
- Psalm 46:1-3
The Bible is filled with metaphors for God. God is our King. God is our shepherd. God is our refuge.
Merriam-Webster defines refuge as “shelter or protection from danger or distress.” In the midst of trouble, God is our refuge. When all seems hopeless, God is our hope. God saves us from danger or distress. And God commands us to do the same for others in peril.
Refugees are, by definition, some of the most vulnerable people in the world. Their homes are no longer safe. Their lives are in danger. They are in distress. People don’t leave everything they own behind and flee their homes with only the things they can carry unless they are in immediate, life-and-death danger.
In Syria, men, women, and children are being killed by their own government on the one side and by ISIS on the other. In Central America, crushing poverty and rampaging, murderous drug cartels are forcing young people into the drug trade and killing those who resist. These people are scared. They are alone. They need a place of refuge.
God is our refuge and strength. You know how I think God provides refuge for people in war-torn countries? For people living in poverty?
I think God expects us to do it.
That’s because when God came to the earth as a man in the person of Jesus Christ, he said this:
“When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his glorious throne. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.
“Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’
“Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’
“The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’
“Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’
“They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’
“He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’
“Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.”
It’s that simple. It’s black-and-white. And it’s straight from the mouth of Jesus Christ. “I was a stranger, and you invited me in.” “I was a stranger, and you did not invite me in.” Whatever we do, we do it to Him.
That’s the test.