I’d like to start with considering this Scripture: “Behold, I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves; be ye, therefore, wise as serpents and harmless as doves.” Matt. 10:16
Okay, so that’s an odd thing to open with when the article’s title has to do with walls and refugees. Stay with this till the end and, trust me, it’ll make sense.
In just the short space of this article, my purpose is to present Scripture that will make you take a closer look at how Christians are to view walls, refugees and our attitude in the broader discussion that is now ongoing.
In Revelation chapter 21, John is shown the New Jerusalem coming down from heaven. Verse 12 says there was “…a wall great and high, and had twelve gates.” Each gate was attended by an angel and was inscribed with the name of one of the twelve tribes of Israel.
Versus 14 through 21 give a detailed description of the walls, the foundation, the gates and the enormous dimensions of the New Jerusalem.
So, does heaven have walls? Apparently so.
God’s holy earthly city of Jerusalem was always a walled city. Throughout history, its walls have expanded and contracted. It was King David who captured the city of Jebus and turned it into Jerusalem, the capital of Israel. Under Solomon, the city walls were expanded. From 931 BC to 586 BC, the city expanded westward. After exile, it was in Nehemiah’s day (444 BC-442 BC) that the walls were rebuilt. There was expansion under the Maccabees, destruction under the Romans, and periods of growth as well as destruction under both the Crusaders and the Moslems.
The walls of Jerusalem were probably at their largest extent during the time of Christ. Nonetheless, it’s apparent that God has a purpose for walls.
The Sojourner (i.e. refugee)
The word “sojourner” means temporary resident; one who stays or resides temporarily. In Hebrew, the word for sojourner is ger.
Under Mosaic law, a sojourner was protected and provided for, but they were obligated to obey the laws and could suffer the same punishments as Jews if they broke the law. (See Ex. 12:49; Lev. 17:15; 18;26; 24:22; Num. 15:16, 29; 19:10; 35:15; Deut. 1:16; 24:17; 31:12)
Writing in Bible.org, Brian Webster, in a very detailed analysis of the relationship of sojourners with their Hebrew hosts, says in part:
Mosaic law envisions the ger, the “sojourner”, as those who have joined the covenant, submitted to Israel’s God and Israel’s laws, and become part of the people of God. With those criteria and rights under the law, the Hebrew word ger might be best translated as ”naturalized” citizen.
So the “sojourner”, or ger, does not refer to just any foreign person. It does not refer to visiting traders, foreign dignitaries, or raiders, etc., and in a legal context not even a foreigner who happens to be living in the land. The term ger applies to those who have religiously, philosophically, ceremonially, and legally joined Israel. They were not Israelites in the sense of being descendants of Jacob, but they were not simply immigrants. Their rights and provisions came not from merely being there, but from pledging allegiance to the Lord and His covenant with Israel.
So what’s this telling us? Israel welcomed the stranger, the sojourner, among them…BUT…and it was a big BUT … that person had to meet certain criteria and was expected to behave in a certain way.
The Truth of the Good Samaritan (or, another perspective on attitude)
We all know the story of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:30-37) who helped a man who was robbed, beaten and left for dead. He took care of the man’s wounds and took him to an inn to be cared for and even paid the bill.
What the Samaritan didn’t do was take the guy to his own home, thus potentially endangering himself, his family or even his community. By taking him to a public place, he put his care in the hands of a professional (for that time period) whose job it was to provide aid and comfort. The Samaritan helped the wounded man get to a safe place, paid the bill, but had no other involvement, at least according to this Scripture reference.
The lesson here is that while it’s definitely the Lord’s will for us to aid others, there are ways to do so without endangering ourselves.
It is not unchristian to know who is living among you; it is not unchristian to obey the laws of the land and expect others to do so as well; it is not unchristian to be concerned for your personal safety, as well as that of your family and community.
Remember the Scripture mentioned at the beginning, Matt. 10:16? You know, that thing about being “as wise as serpents but harmless as doves”?
“Wisdom” and “harmless”(ness) are both attributes of human character. But pay particular attention to which one is mentioned first.
Oh, and in closing, just a thought. Not only does heaven have walls and gates, it has one amazing vetting system.
Image: By Kimon Berlin, user:Gribeco – own work, based on public domain tapestry (14th century), CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=921959