Serving Refugees: Meeting Needs and Proclaiming Christ
The crisis of refugees is one of the great problems we find in our modern world. 7.2 million refugees have fled Ukraine. 6.8 million from Syria. 2.7 million from Afghanistan. 2.4 million from South Sudan. 1.8 million from Myanmar. And an estimated 100 million displaced people worldwide, driven from their homes by war, persecution and injustice.
Having abandoned everything, these people are vulnerable, at risk of being taken advantage of. Many Christians have organized efforts to give them basic necessities like food, water, lodging, clothing, and companionship — all of which Jesus tells us to give in service to Him (Matt. 25:35-40).
But refugees are also vulnerable spiritually. With their normal gone, they question reality and truth. In fact, many eagerly turn to Christ upon hearing the Gospel the first time. So should we be more concerned about giving them the Gospel than humanitarian aid?
Although we tend to emphasize one need over the other, Acts 3 clearly teaches that serving refugees means both helping the hurting and proclaiming the Gospel.
Helping Accompanied by Proclaiming
The chapter begins with Peter and John in Jerusalem going to the temple to pray (not preach). As Jews, it was a big deal to pray in the temple, especially since they grew up in Galilee. As they approached the gate, they saw a man lame from birth begging. Instead of looking away to avoid his cries for help, both Peter and John looked at him and told the man to look at them also.
For whatever reason, they did not have money — but they had something better. They remembered that Jesus would have healed anyone in this kind of setting, so Peter says, “In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk!” Peter then took the man by the hand and suddenly, for the first time in his life, he felt strength in his bones and his muscles. It was an instant and complete miracle — clearly of Jesus. In fact, the man not only stood up, the Bible says he leapt! He walked and leapt and praised God all around the temple. Maybe he even did a few somersaults. In any case, his response drew a crowd.
Instead of going about their business, Peter and John realized that, as Jesus’ witnesses, they needed to tell the crowd that the miracle happened because of Jesus. They proclaimed the Gospel, calling everyone there to faith and repentance.
Today, there are so many ways we can be serving refugees and in turn serve Jesus. If we can help someone with a need and we don’t, shame on us! Jesus all through the Gospel met physical needs, so we should, too. But we can’t stop there. As Peter and John did, we must go on to give the hope only Jesus can give.