Jesus, The Refugee

Jesus in Egypt by Eugene Girardet

In response to President Donald Trump’s executive order halting refugees from various war-torn nations in the Middle East, a number of people have stated their opposition to his actions, some declaring that Jesus was himself a refugee.  For example, Al Sharpton made this claim and Fox News was quick to deride him.  As Fox News states, “There’s one problem though: Sharpton’s tweet is not exactly accurate, at least according to the Bible.”  One of their readers declared, “…they went to pay Taxes in Egypt. They went home. YOU need to pay your taxes and learn Bible!!”  Another writes, “Jesus Christ, whose parents were good taxpaying citizens, was no refugee and Al Sharpton, tax evading cheat, is no reverend.”

Although I don’t have any political affinity for Al Sharpton, I would argue that he is correct and that Fox News and their readers are the ones who need to read or reread their Bibles.  Don’t believe me?  Well, according to the Gospels, Joseph and Mary went to Bethlehem as a result of the Roman census.

At that time the Roman emperor, Augustus, decreed that a census should be taken throughout the Roman Empire.  (This was the first census taken when Quirinius was governor of Syria.)  All returned to their own ancestral towns to register for this census.  And because Joseph was a descendant of King David, he had to go to Bethlehem in Judea, David’s ancient home. He traveled there from the village of Nazareth in Galilee.  He took with him Mary, to whom he was engaged, who was now expecting a child. -Luke 2:1-5 NLT

True, at that time, they were not refugees, merely following the Roman law and returning to Joseph’s hometown for the census.  However, according to the book of Matthew, when King Herod hears of the birth of Jesus (who he thought might end up challenging his rule,) he ordered his soldiers to find Jesus and ultimately kill him.

After the wise men were gone, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream. “Get up! Flee to Egypt with the child and his mother,” the angel said. “Stay there until I tell you to return, because Herod is going to search for the child to kill him.”

That night Joseph left for Egypt with the child and Mary, his mother, and they stayed there until Herod’s death. This fulfilled what the Lord had spoken through the prophet: “I called my Son out of Egypt.”

Herod was furious when he realized that the wise men had outwitted him. He sent soldiers to kill all the boys in and around Bethlehem who were two years old and under, based on the wise men’s report of the star’s first appearance. -Matthew 2:13-16 NLT

What is a refugee?  Well, dictionary.com defines a refugee as “a person who flees for refuge or safety, especially to a foreign country, as in time of political upheaval, war, etc.”

Did Jesus and his parents travel to a foreign country?  Yes, to Egypt.  Did they flee for their safety due to either political upheaval or war?  Yes, as the king sought to kill Jesus for political reasons.

Given that Jesus and his parents fit the dictionary definition of a refugee, how can anyone argue that they were anything other than refugees?  In fact, the Bible tells us that they stayed in a foreign land until King Herod was dead, thus ending the political threat against their lives.

When Herod died, an angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt. “Get up!” the angel said. “Take the child and his mother back to the land of Israel, because those who were trying to kill the child are dead. -Matthew 2:19-20

Whether you agree or disagree with President Trump’s action to prevent refugees coming into the United States from several Middle Eastern countries, if you make the claim that Jesus was not a refugee and that Al Sharpton is Biblically illiterate for calling him one, instead of making him look foolish, you display your own stunning lack of Biblical knowledge.

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