Welcome to the historic First Baptist Church of Memphis, serving Memphis & the Mid-South since 1839. You will find exciting ministries, mission opportunities, and vibrant worship.

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Remember You Too Were Aliens

Recently I’ve been reading the book The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini.  Those of you who are avid readers know that I’m a bit late on this one.   It was released in 2003 and was on the NY Times best seller list for two years.  I try to read as much as possible, but can’t always keep up.  It’s a powerful book and not for the faint of heart.  Set in Afghanistan, it spans the time from just before the Russian take over to the rise of the Taliban regime.  It is filled with images of prejudice, violence, war, and what it means to be a refugee.   It is has been a powerful backdrop to the stories of refugees currently coming out of Syria, the ongoing issues of immigration in our own country, not to mention the refugees to which we are connected via Piece of Thread Memphis, Ekata Designs, and First International Baptist Church.

Scripture is abundantly clear as to how we are to treat refugees, aliens, and strangers.   God loves, protects and provides for refugees  (Ps. 149:6; Is. 25:4)  In like fashion, God expects us to welcome them and treat them with hospitality and compassion, (Zech. 7:9-10; Matt. 25:31-46; Is. 16:3-5).  God expects us to express this hospitality in every way, including giving of our resources to their welfare,  (Deut. 14:28-29, 24:19-21, 26:12; Lev. 19:10, 23:22)  God commands it.  We are to be obedient.   God acts this way toward them.  We are to treat them the same way.  It seems pretty clear.

But God knows us.  God knows that sometimes “Because I said so…” is not enough motivation for us.  And so God provides additional motivation.  God commands the Israelites to be kind, generous, fair, and just to the refugee or alien among them because “you too were once aliens in Egypt’s land”  (Ex. 22:21; Lev. 19:33-4; Deut. 10:16-19)  It seems that God knows our willingness to be compassionate toward others is often times linked to our ability to identify with their situation, and the strongest identification we can have is memory.  

“But unlike the Israelites, we have not been aliens before,” you say.  Well, keep in mind that somewhere back down the line some part of your family was an alien, of course; and that somehow all of us have, at one time, “been on the outside looking in.”  But even conceding the point that many of us have not known what it is to be an “alien” in a foreign land, scripture still has a word for us.  Indeed, scripture goes to some length to remind us that in terms of our salvation we were all excluded, yet nevertheless “while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us,”  (Romans 5, Eph. 2).  So even if some of us have never known the exclusion of being an alien or refugee, out of our experience of salvation alone, we should have enough gratitude for the grace shown to us that we should willingly extend such grace to those that still feel alienated from God, from peace, justice, health, shelter and all that God wants for all God’s children.

If this were not enough, scripture provides even more motivation.   In earlier paragraphs, if my reference to the refugee in the objective (them, they) seemed a bit much…good.   For in addition to memory and identification, scripture reminds us that when it comes to thinking about  refugees/aliens/foreigners/strangers…there really is no “them” and “us.”   It’s just “us.”   Ruth, Jonah, the Good Samaritan, the Ethiopian Eunuch, Pentecost, Peter and Cornelius….all remind us that there is no “them,” no “us,” no “natives,” no “aliens.”   We are, all of us, beloved children of God.

I realize none of this provides easy answers to the questions posed by the present immigration and refugee crises.  But I do think it calls those of us who carry the name of Christ and proclaim the Kingdom of God to do everything possible to find answers that result in compassion, welcome, peace and justice, not just for some, but for all.   

On October 18 at 6 p.m., we will have our first Modern Vespers of the fall.  It will be a service of prayer for the World’s Refugees.  I encourage you to come.  Continue as well to keep yourself informed as to the situations at hand and what you can do to respond.  Here are some links to recent CBF articles: Article1: Immigration expert shares about ‘new face of the stranger’  and  Article 2: Syrian Refugees

Grace, David


This article was written by Rev. Dr. David Breckenridge and originally published in the October edition of Together.


Posted by Bridget Ellis at 9:30 AM
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