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All Christians are Asylum-Seekers

A Christian IS an asylum-seeker.

All of us. Each of us.

By definition.

As refugees, don’t we need to flee from the sin of this world? Don’t we come to the proverbial Gates of God’s Kingdom as asylum-seekers, begging that God may allow us to enter?

Some have argued—without exaggeration—that the entire Bible is a story of migration.

In the Bible, we read that Noah was adrift at sea until God brought his ark to a safe landing. Abraham set out with little more than his family en route to the Promised Land. Moses led the Israelites out of captivity and slavery. Jesus the Good Shepherd leads his sheep from the sin of this world to enlightenment and to His Kingdom, both on earth as it is in Heaven. The Apostles went forth into the world sharing the Good News.

In the Catholic Church, we understand that we are a “pilgrim people.” It’s our very identity. See this link for quotes from documents of Vatican II as well as from Pope John Paul II on this. We are a people on the move.

Movement of people is an underlying theme in all of Scripture—in particular the movement of desperate people. I rarely say that “the Bible” has one message, but in this case it truly does. You could argue that it’s there on every page, in every passage.

To not self-identify as a migrant is to understand neither the Bible nor Christianity.

To not understand that moving out of your comfort zone toward trusting in what God has prepared for you is to miss so much of the Biblical message. This can be an interior movement as your own thoughts mature or it can be an exterior change in your surroundings. It can be a movement you undertake as an individual, a family or as a whole nation of people.

Aren’t we ALL asylum seekers who seek refuge in God’s kingdom?

If there is ANY role that can best emulate our relationship with God, it should be that of refugee and asylum-seeker. This is how we come to God: We are the huddled masses of desperate, poor people gathered outside God’s gate, begging for mercy and a warm welcome in—a welcome we can’t purchase or deserve. And may God have mercy on us for how we treat others who are migrants, immigrants, refugees and asylum-seekers. We will want safe passage and a warm welcome into God’s kingdom, but did we grant safe harbor to others when they begged for it, when we easily could have provided it?

This is the migrants journey—but not just any migrant. This is the journey of a refugee—but not just any refugee. This is the journey of an asylum-seeker. This is the position we are in when we come to God. We are at the gates of God’s Kingdom, begging for entry, and there is nothing we can do to merit it, earn it, buy it or deserve it. We have nothing to barter with. Only God’s mercy will let us in, and thank God there is mercy in abundance!

It would be wrong to ignore many passages in the Bible which claim there is a direct relationship between the mercy we give in this world and the mercy we receive from God. Look at the story of the Good Samaritan in Luke 10:25-37 or the parable of the sheep and goats in Matthew 25:31-46. I know it is tricky as that enters into the whole “works vs grace” debate, and I don’t want to get into that here. Furthermore, some people may not interpret these “Kingdom” passages to be about an afterlife in Heaven, but this blog post is written for those who do. Perhaps these passages have more to do with how well we “know God” rather than whether or not we get a ticket to Heaven.

So when you see the huddled masses who have traveled thousands of miles with little more than the clothes on their backs approaching the U.S. border begging for safety—THAT is exactly what we look like when we approach the proverbial Gates of Heaven.

More importantly: Does that change our attitudes about them at all?

Sometime we feel lost at sea, like Noah, doing all we can to just hold on for the ride. Sometimes we set out daringly like Abraham. Sometimes our whole family—and our whole people—are running for our lives like the Israelites out of Egypt. Sometimes we agree to our mission as formed disciples, like the Apostles. But in all this, we are a people on the move, trusting in God.

Maybe you’ll “get to Heaven” whether you help out these asylum-seekers or not—after all, our God is a God of mercy. But then again how can you get to Heaven if you don’t know God, and if you see these huddled masses and see neither yourself nor Christ in them, then can you really say you know God? And furthermore, don’t you want to know God just for the sake of knowing God, whether or not that comes with a ticket to Heaven or not?
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